Large mansions owned by foreigners now proclaim Udon Thani as one of the most popular retirement destinations in Thailand for western men marrying Thai women.
Udon Thani is the capital city of the province of the same name in Thailand's North East corner. The city is home to a growing number of marriages involving Thai women and foreign men. There are many reasons why a Thai wife and foreign husband choose Thailand as their home, particularly north east Thailand around Udon Thani, the latter being a American air base during the Vietnam War. Thai women marry foreigners for various reasons, a common one being for financial security for her and her family. Such marriages offer each partner specific benefits, and often develop into a loving relationship.
Thai Wife and foreign husband choose Udon Thani
It is not unusual for foreign men marrying a Thai wife to settle down in Thailand rather than in their own country. There are several reasons for this, just as they are many reasons for foreign men marrying Thai women. The area of north east Thailand around the city of Udon Thani is particularly popular for westerners, and you often see large family homes in this area owned by men from the USA, Australia or Europe. 'This place is a city but for me, strangely, it feels s like a town at home,' says Ron from Montana in the USA.
Some observers point to one-time American air base of Udon Thani, used by the Americans during the Vietnam War. Although you may believe these lavish houses to be the homes of wealthy Thai businessmen, they are not. They are generally owned by western men who have decided to marry a Thai woman and settle down in the area. Many foreigners have heard so much about Udon Thani that they travel to this area with the intention of marrying a local girl.
Many Americans prefer Thailand
Thai women are very popular with Americans and other foreigners, and not all take their new wives back to their own country. During the Vietnam War, this part of Thailand was a recreational area for Americans and others involved in the conflict, and many liked this part of the country. For many Americans in particular, this was light years from their own existence in the hustle bustle of large cities such as New York or Los Angeles, and preferable to them than the dry tornado regions of the mid west.
Thai women are generally very beautiful, and Thai wives tend to be very caring and protective of their husbands. They are not generally feminists, and tend to look after their husbands and cater for their needs. In many cases, foreigners have decided to remain in Thailand after their marriage - or even before it, electing to live with who would eventually become their wife.
This part of north east Thailand, close to the Vietnamese border, has been a popular settlement for foreign men ever since the war ended. Many of the large houses in Udon Thani belong to middle-aged or elderly Americans who met their wives in the fleshpots of Bangkok or Pattaya. The young women saw this as a means of escaping their profession and relative poverty, and living the high life with a rich foreigner. Rather than take their new wives back to the USA, they would settle down in rural Thailand where the cost of living is cheap, and they could be looked after by their young Thai wives.
Not all marriages involve Love
It doesn't always begin as a marriage made in heaven, and for large numbers of young women their marriage was more of a financial and security arrangement than a love match - at least initially. Sepee is a 45 year-old Thai woman who met her husband 21 years ago. He was a German tourist named Peter, now 62 years old. She says: 'At first it wasn't about love but for a better life'. They are now deeply in love with each other.
Another Thai woman, Boonyong, was a Bangkok waitress when she met now retired French oil engineer, Jean-Claude. 'I didn't like him so much at first,' she says, but accepted his invitation to live with him. Doing so enabled her to return home and be with her mother. They are still together after many years of marriage.
These two stories are typical of marriages between beautiful young Thai women and foreign men. Often financial and sexual attractions, frequently loveless at first, but an emotional attachment developing over time that frequently extends into love. These are not unusual stories, and in Udon Thani itself, almost 17% of all marriages involve foreign men. In one village in the province of Roi Et, 40% of families involve Thai women married to foreign men, most of these being European (mainly German and Swiss).
Middle-aged or even older men occasionally meet young Thai women involved in the sex trade, and become enamored with them. The women see this as a way out of their situation. However, it should not be assumed that this is common, and the majority of marriages between Thai wives and foreign men are not connected with this trade, including the two examples provided above.
Some relationships are scams
It is true that many Thai women hitch up with foreigners, particularly Europeans or Americans, because they believe them to be their meal ticket out of poverty. However, there are occasionally ulterior motives, both because only relatively few Thais now live in what could be described as abject poverty and also because of the laws in Thailand regarding property ownership.
Many lie to attract foreign men, and it is not unknown for a married Thai woman to mislead a foreigner into believing she is unattached and claim her Thai boyfriend to be a brother. This is largely because property and land can only be owned by Thai nationals, and once property has been purchased or built in the Thai woman's name, she evicts her husband or foreign boyfriend and then the Thai boyfriend moves into what is now legally her property.
Fortunately this type of thing happens relatively rarely, but it is not uncommon. Foreign men should be suspicious of any young males hanging around their new wife or girlfriend, claiming to be a relative or just a 'friend'.