An obese woman, sitting on the cool, tile floor, one leg tucked beneath her massive bottom, the other straight out in front, her back leaning against the full-length glass window, is dozing. She catches our eye in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi (say that in a hurry) Airport because we are waiting, bored, for our highway bus connection to our destination after a long flight. Our rental condo is four hours away in Hua Hin, on the Gulf of Thailand.
She is amazing, this woman who looks in her thirties. Wearing black slacks, a black and white polka dot top, black slip-on shoes, she remains alert despite her closed eyes. Round owl glasses sit on her pug nose. Short, curly hair surrounds her round face while her pudgy fingers (a gold band adorns her ring finger) keep tabs on three steadily ringing cellular phones.
When she can’t stand the noise any longer, she reaches for a full roll of toilet tissue, places it on the chair seat in front of her, leans her forehead on the roll using it like a soft pillow.
This woman is conducting some sort of travel business in this busy airport, oblivious to the hustle and bustle. Her belongings lie scattered around her. No-one dares enter ‘her’ space.
She has created her own office with no overhead. And she appears to be thriving. She is an original Made in Thailand entrepreneur.
We see these couples everywhere. From previous research, I know many websites promote endless romantic possibilities for a foreign man with a beautiful Thai girl.
But what catches my eye are the high numbers of these mixed couples. I am curious. In many cases the Thai girls are young; the foreign white men to whom they are attached are predominantly middle-aged plus. And not good-looking or suave. They have overhanging paunches, and some are not gentlemen.
I watch these mismatches dine together. We are at the next table. Thai girl and foreign man barely say a word (language obviously a problem); the girl invariably grabs her man’s hand throughout the meal as if he’s about to escape. He pays the restaurant bill, of course. They leave hand-in-hand.
I watch in the mobile phone office when speaking Thai makes business sense. While my husband struggles to purchase SIM cards or figure out what numbers to use for North America with a Thai salesclerk, the middle-aged guy standing at the clerk next to us turns his problems over to his Thai girl. She handles the transaction. Acts as interpreter, takes his credit card, and if he protests about costs he doesn’t understand, she quickly holds his hand to calm him. Then she slides off the stool still holding her high-end store shopping bags, links her arm through his, and off they go to spend more money.
In the mall, these couples are everywhere. Thai girl is petite, barely up to his stooped shoulder. In one hand he holds many packages from expensive boutiques. His tiny Thai lady grips his other hand tightly. No conversation passes between them.
Why do I have this nagging feeling that Cupid did not fire any arrows? Perhaps for Thai women the motivating force that binds is money (or the promise of), an escape from poverty, or just wanting to leave Thailand for a new life in a new land.
As for the men, this is probably what they want and need. A Made in Thailand partner.