Online from a Bangkok hotel, a US Fortune 500 CEO met his Thai wife in 40 minutes
The fruits of a Thai Love holiday can be sweet or bitter. The changing nature and growing trend of these holidays often produces not only a new wife but also a new life for western men.
While a Fortune 500 CEO sits at home happily in the company of his Thai wife he met in Bangkok three years ago, two
US men of different ages are planning an important trip to Thailand in three months time. John and Bernard are going on
a Thai Love holiday and they are not the first nor will they be the last.
In 2016 Thailand recorded its highest tourist numbers with 32.6 million visitors visiting the Southeast Asian Kingdom.
In 2017 the figure is even projected to exceed that. A news commentator in Bangkok estimates that up to 5% of these
visitors could be made of western men like John and Bernard. These western men are part of a growing and continuing
trend which generates significant wealth for Thailand not only in increased tourist revenue but also in subsequent inward
investment in various forms.
How Thai Love tours began
In the late 1960s and early 1970s the first love tourists arrived in Thailand. No, they were not the American GIs from the
Vietnam war who were already in Thailand and lighting up the neon signs of what would become the Thai sex industry.
No, these were quiet, discreet visitors certainly enjoying the sunshine and hospitality of Thailand as the latest visitors do
but they were on a mission. These were Austrian and German men often from farming backgrounds in the newly
resurgent economies of Austria and Germany of the post World war era. They were in Thailand to find Thai wives as
German women were recruited into the workforce to perform the economic miracle of post world war Germany. The Thai
women were mostly from Isaan, an impoverished area of Thailand and the feeder ground for the burgeoning sex industry
in Bangkok. What started as a trickle become a flood and a live network of lives and relationships. A this phenomenon
grew, so did small business enterprises around it such as dating agencies and in the 1970s we had the first Thai Love
tours where foreign western men, pushed out of the love market in western countries, or simply seeking a new experience,
took a holiday in far away Thailand and often returned with an exotic Thai wife from which a stereotype was born.
Internet changed everything for many Thai women
This all changed at the beginning of the new millennium when the internet took off and it became available to
the masses in Thailand first through internet cafes and then through the technological revolution of the
smartphone. Today these developments are impacting the ordinary lives of Thai girls and more middle aged Thai women
all over Thailand. The Thai sex industry is in decline as Thai women have more economic and life options than ever
'It has sparked a new consciousness in Thai women and it is particularly with Thai women, you know,' says Carla
Boonkong who sees the internet and the smartphone as key to the practical empowerment of poor Thai women who have
little going for them otherwise and younger Thai women seeking broader social horizons. 'Today a Thai woman can find
a new life with a foreign man but you know a day can come too where she can do it for herself through making her own
opportunities in foreign countries,' sasy M/s Boonkong. Carla Boonkong is supportive of Thai women seeking
relationships with foreigners simply because her research has shown that such relationships provide positive
opportunities for Thai women on balance.
Two Americans from Hoboken New Jersey seek Thai Love
John Tomlins and Bernard Dixon, two American men are planning their first trip to Thailand in three months time.
They are excited and also a little apprehensive. 'We have been online with the dating sites and getting the skinny on
Thailand. There is a list of Thai girls to meet and we're saving up the money,' says John.
The duo met in a bar in Hoboken, New Jersey one Sunday night watching football and formed their enterprise to go to
Thailand and find love. 'It was just some good banter but then we got serious. We thought what have we to lose? right,' says
Bernard who by now is getting a pretty good feel for exactly just what he might lose from online dating sites and forums
where all the news is not so good.
Bernard is 32, newly divorced after his marriage of eight years ended the year before. He has no children and the
breakup was relatively painless or so he says. 'She just met another guy and I wasn't her type anymore apparently,' he says. John is older
at fifty nine. John's wife died ten years before and his two children are grown up and settled.
Ater a lot of online activity on internet sites, the pair are now well aware of what's involved in finding love in Thailand
and are prepared for the pitfalls of a Thai love holiday. 'We were talking about this last week and to be honest if you believe
everything you read online, you could easily get frightened off Thailand before ever setting foot in the place.'
They are right on all counts. There are dangers, they are real but many have found not only new love but a new live and new vistas. They are about to make a step on what could be a long journey with potential ups and downs.
Bad news from Thailand of bar girls and scams
The news stories online about foreigners in Thailand and the shady doings of cold hearted bar girls are endless. The
New Jersey pair know well enough that on their trip to Thailand there is sex for sale and there is love to be found but it's
best to keep the two activities apart or better yet, forget about the the bar girls, the massage parlours and the lures of the
Thai sex industry altogether. For the two lads from Hoboken, who are not heavy hitters on the local dating scene nor
currently with steady girlfriends, this may be a big ask but they assert themselves as soley interested in the pursuit of love in
'We'll have a good holiday but we're only interested in meeting nice Thai girls or women out there in the Land of
Smiles,' Bernard assures us.
Not easy for western singles to avoid the snares of the Thai sex trade
James Morris, an internet commentator from Bangkok says this is often more difficult than it seems. 'In a nightclub on any
given night in Bangkok you'll find some Thai girls looking to meet a foreigner, many of them work in the sex industry and they
will be there with many others who work in shops or office jobs, the line between the sex trade in Thailand and everyday
life is a bit more blurred than in western lands but the truth to tell, it is becoming increasingly so in western countries now also as the the internet is changing everything. The
internet has lured many western girls also into the fringes of the sex industry in recent years but nothing like the scale that
still exists in Thailand. Morris says that the best advice for guys coming from the US, the UK or Europe is to get out of
Bangkok. 'If they're going to play around, then play a round in Bangkok, do whatever deeds must be done then get out to
meet the right kind of girls,' he offers.
Up to 5% of Thai visitors may be on the Thai Love trail
James estimates that up to 5% of all tourist landing in Thailand's Suvarnabhumi airport may be engaged in Thai Love
pursuits or on a Thai love holiday. We thought it might be higher. 'No, Thailand has a rocketing tourist industry right now.
Lots of Asian visitors and a multitude of Chinese. Also Thailand is widening its horizons, looking for more diverse tourist
base,' he says. There's no doubt however that these foreigners like John and Bernard from Hoboken on their love tours
have been a very successful source of tourist revenue into Thailand. They have also generated significant inward financial
investment. This has been documented by academics and government officials in Thailand's northern region where
much of the money from westerners marrying into Thailand ends up.
Foreign investment continues to follow Thai wife relationships
'Many foreigners coming to Thailand, not only find a Thai wife but a new life!' says Morris. The growing numbers of
foreign men, who for the last twenty have generated an inward wave of immigrants into Thailand from foreign countries as
well as inward investments as they settle in Thailand, has become a significant factor in the country although it tends to
be exaggerated. It must also be seen in terms of Thailand growing economy which has grown slowly and steadily
recovering from the stagnation caused by political unrest. The relationships between foreign men and
Thai women increasingly result in investment in the country through the building of homes or purchase of properties. This
trend has continued despite periodic crackdowns by the Thai government in enforcing foreign ownership rules which
make such investments more risky.
Thai Love Holidays - the new approach
Many older foreigners, when they think of a Love holiday in Thailand, are conscious of a format made popular in the
1970s of organised excursions to Thailand where meetings are arranged between foreign men and Thai women. This
more traditional concept is accompanied by more traditional dating agencies or marriage agencies which still operate in
Carla Boonkong, the commentator and researcher on Thai women finding relationships with foreign men: 'In the past
many Thai women were nervous of meeting foreign men as their was a significant stigma, they're still is you know, but it's
changed very much with the internet. Back then it was better for it to be a controlled process and the foreign gentleman
prefer it that way too, she says.'
All changed with the internet and international Thai dating sites
'There are still some organisations that do holiday trips but I think it was something more popular in the Philippines but
all that has stopped with the internet,' James Morris concurs. 'Our own research indicates the 5% of tourists to Thailand are in
fact western men or men for developed countries looking for love or are part of such a lifestyle. The internet changed
everything and continues to change things. For now internet dating and social networking sites offer these foreign men the
tools not only for meeting eligible women in Thailand but also to co-ordinate and research their trip to Thailand as
well,' says James Morris.
UK Sun newspaper expose on Thai Love tours
But Morris's predictions of the demise of the old fashioned Thai Love organised junket may yet be premature. In 2015,
a UK Thai company which had resurrected the Thai holiday tour concept was featured in an explosive news article
article carried on the UK's most popular tabloid newspaper. The Sun, famous for its aggressive headlines and power in
UK politics, ran a story castigating an old fashioned Thai Love tour event in Bangkok which it had covered. The report
featured photos of wealthier UK men meeting dozens of beautiful young Thai woman at a popular Bangkok city centre hotel
frequented by expats in the city. The clearly disapproving female reporter for the feisty Sun described the 'cringe
worthy' sight of overweight and seemingly unattractive UK men wooing younger Thai women invited to the event. One
aspect of the news story featured an overweight UK participant exulting in the memory of Thai women fighting to pour his
beer. The struggle between two of the UK men for the hand of one particular Thai lady summed up the report nicely for
the UK reporter who clearly did not approve of the proceedings.To Carla Boonkong, an advocate of Thai women
marrying foreigners and settling abroad, the coverage and the event itself was a step backwards for Thai women.
Stereotyping of Thai women abroad - the greatest challenge
The coverage highlights a significant issue for UK men seeking Thai wives or relationships partners online. In fact, it
has emerged that UK men are among the most enthusiastic western men seeking love and marriage in Thailand.
Researchers in the UK have found that many of these relationships now develop online on a one to one basis. The same
research also points to a phenomenon where Anglo Thai couples tend to avoid the limelight and public scrutiny. This is
traced back to a sense of stigma generated by the robust UK press and media scene which often sets out to promote the
stereotype of the UK man and Thai bride. Added to this is a growing trend among younger female freelance journalists, often active feminists, to produce
'documentaries' featuring self paid trips to Thailand and exposing such relationships which they see as 'unbalanced' and
run counter to the modern feminist narrative. 'The Sun coverage of the Thai love tour in 2015 was quite shocking but the
report itself was accurate, I think it's important in this day and age that the media sees that Thai women are actually
empowered by the internet and the freedom to find international relationships. These sort of tours suggest otherwise. The
internet has allowed Thai women to meet men and women from all over the world on their own terms and I think that this
is healthier situation,' says Carla Boonkong. Carla is an activist and social researcher who has studied the plight of Thai women
Continued growth of Thai Love holidays
Thailand's growing success as a holiday destination feeds into the continued growth of this phenomenon. Thailand's
tourist numbers for 2017 are on target another record year. While the mix is changing towards more Asian visitors, the
growth of airline connections to Bangkok from major cities worldwide has transformed the Thai capital into a significant
worldwide air hub. This has meant more convenient flight options for western visitors and cheaper prices.
Demographics and economics mean more options for Thai women
There have been significant demographic changes that have slowed down the numbers of younger Thai women
seeking foreign partners. It is also true to say that economic progress in Thailand, although subdued, is offering Thai girls
and women more opportunities than before. These factors are cancelled out by the power of the internet and the rapid
growth of smartphones in Thailand. This now offers nearly every Thai woman the opportunity to meet foreign men online
from a handset or to seek educational and employment opportunities. What was once considered a social taboo, is now
embraced by a significant minority of Thai women at least as an experience. 'It is become a sort of fashion among
younger Thai women to meet, date and communicate with foreign men. There is certainly a yearning for travel and
adventure there,' says Carl Boonkong. 'This is very real but it is still a small minority of Thai women, we must not forget that.
And that the portrayal of Thai women in the international media is something that concerns every Thai woman.'
Smartphones - a new power for Thai women
The surge of technology, aided with cheap smartphone handsets which have flooded the market in Thailand has
opened up the world for Thai women. In addition to this, there has been an environment created in Thailand over the last
twenty years where dating foreign men or 'farang' has become a more acceptable social activity. Indeed these foreign
men have become part of the social mix although some at the higher end of Thai society still look askance at the
The Thai Love holiday boom continues
There are many reasons for the continues to boom with Thai Love holiday visitors. These are some of the key
- There has been a surge in low cost flights into Thailand in the last five years. Recently a German airline launched
a specific low cost airline with key routes opened up to Thailand. 'International flights to Thailand and Bangkok are now a
growing feature of airline travel. This is particularly true for European countries with increasing numbers of European men
seeing Thailand as a second home.
- The surge in internet communications and applications has given Thai women at all socio economic levels direct
access to their own devices.
- The relatively low cost of living is a major attraction or men from western, developed economies although this is
changing. Thailand has become more expensive in the last five to seven years.
Fortune 500 CEO with his new Thai wife
Chips is a 62 years old CEO from Seattle. Fed up with the dating scene in his home town particularly for older guys, he
was looking for something new. He is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and had dropped out of relationships after his
second divorce in 1995.
He had read about women in Thailand and knew a business friend with a Thai wife who seemed to have a very
successful relationship. 'Every so often I'd meet the guy and his wife and they seemed to be happy, like they had some
great chemistry going on and I'd say to myself, I'd like something like that.' Chips didn't feel comfortable about joining a
dating agency with his business profile so he asked if his friend could he help him out? 'It was a mistake, I was just looking
for something informal, maybe his wife had a friend, you know like the old days. He was in Bangkok suddenly on business
and organising schedules and an extended trip for me.'
A hot August in Bangkok - sultry Thai girls for an elderly CEO
I went along with it, thought it might not a bad idea to have a bit of R & R in Thailand. So I went over there. It was late
August and hot as hell. For two nights, I had dinner dates with these beautiful women, they were educated, they had
class but they were no different from the high powered women you can meet at home. I'm staying in this hotel with lots of
people from the Middle East, I think I was the only English speaking person in the place. On the third day, I wanted to tell
my friend to call it off. I'm 62, I'm thinking, I just wanted to wind thing down and relax. I felt it was all too controlled, if you
know what I mean, it was like I'm headhunting for a job, not good. My friend didn't take it well but C'est la Vie, I still paid his
Free of the merry go round, Chips meets his Thai wife
'So now I'm free from the merry go around, sitting in the hotel foyer with all these Arab families going in and out. Then I
tried something new. I joined a dating site, right there from my mobile. It cost me twenty bucks and a few minutes later I'm
talking to a Thai lady, 45 years old who has her own little business. 30 minutes later I find out she runs a concession shop
at a hotel around corner from mine! 15 minutes later I met my wife for the first time, just like that. I knew within minutes,
after that smile and the easy way we could talk to each other that I had found what I was looking for.
Swedish man's love in holiday in Thailand
Jaakko Gerhardsson's idea of a Thai Love holiday is a bit different. He's been coming to Thailand for the last 15 years
now, twice a year, sometimes three times a year. His thing is simply to find time away in the sun in the company of a
beautiful sexy young woman and he's long past caring about what's respectable or not. 'I'm fifty seven, my life is for living
now, I switched off from Swedish women in my forties and I'm not going back there.'
Thailand is Swede's personal safe space
The rising tide of feminism and a new societal order has left many men like Jaakko alienated. Brought up to believe in
democracy, positive citizenship and the rule of law, they find it difficult to deal with a sense of alienation from the new
societal order that has come about. The divorce rate in Sweden is over 50% and when Jaakko's marriage of eighteen
years ended in 1995, he simply didn't want to repeat the experience.
Swedish man: 'I behave like a gentleman, what can be the problem?'
He has two sons and a daughter. He claims that they understand and accept his lifestyle. He even claims that he
brings his children along sometimes on his getaway trips to Thailand. 'I think they like it better this way. Our life has settled
since the divorce, I have no problem with my ex wife and there is no need for any drama at home. In Sweden, I am a
hardworking father, I pay my bills and keep to the law but I save my money and I go on my trips to Thailand. In Thailand, I
don't break any law and I behave like a gentlemen, what can be the problem? And you know, it's not so expensive.
Sometimes I think I save my money when I am in Thailand!'
Best flights to Bangkok for Thai Love getaway
Jaakko knows where to book the best flights to Bangkok where he stays for a few nights before moving on. He likes to
visit a seaside resort on Thailand's coast called Chaam but often opts to return to Thailand's bad boy holiday location of
choice, Pattaya. Jaakko thinks Pattaya get a bad rap although he admits it has a seedy side. 'My daughter came last year
with her little three year old and Pattaya was a great place for them to have a holiday. I was mildly nervous some evenings
as our hotel was near the girlie bars but they enjoyed it. It's a place with some really good attractions.'
Swedish man prefers to stay single in Thailand
Jaakko doesn't have a relationship in Thailand but he has made friends with a two or three Thai women. 'We keep in
touch online, they are nice people and we meet up again from time to time. But then sometimes I like to be alone and
maybe meet someone new. I have lots of friends here also from other countries such as the UK, Germany and America.
But does he ever not miss have a long term partner, girlfriend or even wife? Jaakko's reply is a little startling: 'I never forget
that my life is in Sweden and my family is there. My ex wife divorced me, I didn't divorce her. So I am making my life and
living my life after all that. At Christmas time, I feel like being with my children, it's a bit lonely at times but then in the New
year, off I go to sunny Thailand again!'