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Thai women use smartphones to win the Thai Dating game

Wednesday 13th October 2021 1:28pm

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 produce 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. 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 became a flood and a live network of lives and relationships.

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 far away from 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 before.

'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 a 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,' says Ms 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 New Jersey seek Thai Love

John Tomlins and Bernard Dixon, two American men, are planning their first trip to Thailand in three months. They are excited and also a little apprehensive. 'We have been online with 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.

After 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 life and new vistas. They are about to take 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 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 solely interested in the pursuit of love in Thailand.

'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 when they visit Thailand

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 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 around in Bangkok, do whatever deeds must be done then get out to meet the right kind of girls,' he offers.

Up to 5% of visitors may be on the Thai Love trail

James estimates that up to 5% of all tourists 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 a 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 years 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's 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 riskier.

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 with 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 that still operate in Bangkok.

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 there was a significant stigma, they're still is, as 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 preferred 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 research indicates that 5% of tourists to Thailand are western men or men from 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 that had resurrected the Thai holiday tour concept was featured in an explosive news 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 women 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 a Thai woman 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 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.

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 empowered by the internet and the freedom to find international relationships. These sorts of tours suggest otherwise.

The internet has allowed Thai women to meet men and women from all over the world on their terms and I think that this is a healthier situation,' says Carla Boonkong.

Carla is an activist and social researcher who has studied the plight of Thai women settling worldwide.

New start for Thai Love holidays

Thailand's Success as a holiday destination fed into the continued growth of this phenomenon. Thailand's tourist numbers for 2019 represented a record year but the Covid 19 crisis has hit the industry hard in 2020 and 2021.

It is hoped that in 2022, the country's tourism industry will be back on a growth curve with 20 million foreign tourists targeted.

This will bring with it more foreign men, particularly westerners seeking a chance for love and romance in the kingdom.

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 has 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 trend.

The Thai Love holiday boom continues

There are many reasons for the projected new boom with Thai Love holiday visitors. These are some of the key factors:

  • 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 socioeconomic levels direct access to their own devices.

  • The relatively low cost of living is a major attraction for 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 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 in the Land of Smiles

I went along with it, thinking it might not be 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 things 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 expenses.

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 the 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, feeling 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 gentleman, 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 gets 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 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 having 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!' is Thailand’s biggest internet dating site with over 355,000 members and growing rapidly …Begin your search for a Thai girlfriend, wife or partner here.

Thai Love Holiday Tours all in the past, now its person to person online
The Thai Love Holiday tour is now archaic. The smartphone revolution and the success of online dating now mean increasing numbers of western men seeking to meet Thai women personally. Online dating has given them to power to find love anywhere at any time
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