Foreign students of the Thai language learn there are no plurals in Thai and they certainly don’t add an ‘s’ to the end of their words to indicate more than one. In this respect, the Anglicized Thai word ‘farang’, meaning foreigner or Westerner, is both singular and plural, like the word ‘sheep’. Is the fact that the word ‘farang’ and the word ‘sheep’ share this common link a coincidence? I think not. (I must admit to having a wicked sense of humour. I once convinced a Pattaya lady intent upon learning English that ‘sheep’ was in fact plural and the singular was ‘shoop’. One shoop; two sheep. I hope she never immigrated to New Zealand.)

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But getting back to the subject of farang, let me introduce you to Paul. Paul is the perfect gentleman, successful, friendly and jovial, with never a harsh word to say about anyone. His only fault is he has a brain the size of a peanut and it is a mystery to all who have met him how he has survived for as long as he has. John, a long-term Pattaya Thailand veteran, first met Paul at a Beer Bar in Soi 8. Paul was talking Thaiglish on his phone to a lady for whom he obviously cared very much and John could not help overhearing part of the dialogue. When the phone call ended, Paul sat down on a vacant stool beside John and they struck up a conversation.
“Woman problems?” John asked offhandedly.
“No, not at all,” replied Paul smiling. “Just doing some last minute organizing. Lek and I are getting married in three days.”
John’s response of, “Congratulations,” was more a knee-jerk reaction to Paul’s words rather than a sincere gesture. Marriage and John did not get along.
With intentions of simply being friendly, John asked, “So how long have the two of you known each other?”
“That’s the amazing thing,” replied Paul, eager to share his story. “We met just over a week ago. It was love at first sight.” With no further prompting needed, he went on to tell John how he had come to Pattaya this first time on the advice of a friend back home. He had met Lek along Beach Road one afternoon, he had instantly been attracted to her, she spoke good English, came from Buriram and was in Pattaya on holiday with her cousin. “How lucky was that!” he added. John listened in silence, a silence which came to an abrupt end when Paul explained, “… and she doesn’t work in a bar and doesn’t like bars at all. I have heard many stories about guys who get hooked up with bar girls and I vowed never to get involved with one. Lek is diff…”
“If you tell me she’s ‘different’ I will tip this beer over your head!” interrupted John harshly.
“But she is. She’s not like all these other girls.” He waved his arm in a motion to the other ladies in the bar.
“Look, mate, how old are you?”
“I’m 62.”
“And how old is Lek?”
“She’s 24.”
“You look like an intelligent bloke. Do you really think she is interested in an old fart like you for any reason other than money?”
Paul failed to respond immediately, as if considering whether he had just been complimented or insulted.
“Oh, Lek has already explained about the dowry. She said her parents would probably accept 100,000 baht which I’m told is not expensive for her part of the world.”
“Since you brought the subject up, what other money has she asked you for?” interrupted John.
“Only the money for the wedding ceremony. She has to have a nice dress, pay for nine monks and put on a reception for her family and friends. She said 150,000 baht would cover it. I don’t have a bank account here so I was arranging for the money to be transferred to her account from my bank in England. It’s only about 3,500 quid.”
“I’ll bet that’s what your phone call was about. ‘When is the money coming?’ Right?”
“Yes. I tried to tell her it is Sunday in England and I can’t get in touch with my bank until tomorrow. How did you know?”
“Lucky guess.”
“She said they could not go ahead until the money comes through so we may have to delay the wedding for a few days. Once we do the religious ceremony in her village, we’ll come back to Pattaya to register it legally. I’m looking forward to it because, well, we haven’t consummated out relationship yet. She is from a traditional family with strong moral values and sex before marriage is out of the question. That’s one of the things I love about her.”
John could take no more. “Look, mate, if you were my brother or my best friend, I’d knock you out now, take you back to your hotel room and keep you there until it’s time to catch the plane home. But I don’t know you, so I won’t. You are probably not going to like this but I’ll tell you anyway. Just how stupid are you?”
Paul was taken aback but realized it was a rhetorical question.
“I’m telling you now, the moment that money arrives in her account, you will never see her again. She is trying to scam you out of 250,000 baht and you are too stupid to see it. If you don’t believe me, just ask any expat in this town. Tell them the story you told me and see what their reaction is. But if you still don’t believe it, just tell her you can’t get the money right away and it may take another week or so. See what happens.” John eased back and gulped a mouthful of his beer.
Paul finished his beer and left the money on the counter. “You’re far too cynical and I’m sure you’re wrong about Lek,” he said softly as he headed out the bar.
“Only one way to find out,” challenged John as Paul walked off up the soi.
Three days later found John in his usual position in the bar. Imagine his surprise when he saw Paul heading towards him with a very somber look on his face. He sat beside John, asking, “Can I buy you a beer?”
“Have you ever heard an Australian answer ‘no’ to that question?” John replied. Paul ordered two beers and turned to John.
“You were right. After I left here I asked a bar owner in the bar next to my hotel. He told me basically the same thing you did so I did what you suggested. I told Lek there was a problem with my bank in the UK and it may be another week or so before the money comes through. I said it wasn’t a big deal and I would change my flight home to fit in the wedding.” He paused as the beers arrived. “I have never seen her so angry. She yelled at me in Thai and, although I couldn’t understand a word, I’m guessing she called me some very unsavory names. I couldn’t understand it and asked her what all the fuss was about. She never said anything and walked out. Now she doesn’t even answer the mobile phone I bought for her.” He raised his beer to John saying, “Cheers.”
“Well, mate, sorry to hear that, but it is better you found out now rather than later. In this place, only fools rush in, so you have to take your time finding the right lady. Wait until you learn all the ropes before making any commitments. You’ve learned your first lesson and all it’s cost you is a beer and a mobile phone. Be happy with the fact you got off cheap. When are you heading home?”
“The taxi is picking me up in about thirty minutes to take me to the airport but I came here hoping to see you to say ‘thanks’.”
“No worries mate. Glad to be of help. Next time, make sure you think everything through carefully before you do something stupid.”
“I don’t know if there will be a ‘next time’.”
They shook hands and John wished Paul good luck as he walked away. Forty-five minutes later, as the taxi turned north onto Sukhumvit Road, a melancholy Paul thought over John’s parting words about getting off cheaply. He felt comfortable with his decision not to mention to John the 30,000 baht he had initially advanced Lek to cover some preliminary wedding expenses.
Meanwhile, at Bangkok international airport, another shoop stepped off the plane.

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