Tiger Woods. Krabi, Thailand

28 Nov

It hit me the other day. Why Thai people are obsessed with Tiger Woods.

In other countries, the non-English taxi drivers only know two words: Obama…Bush…”

In Thailand, it’s different. The only two words they know are: “Tiger Woods.”  At first, I thought it was a nation obsessed with golf.  Then, I met a Thai man who elaborated.

“Ah…Tiger Woods. Yes.  He hero… Our people love Tiger. Mom is Thai. Dad is American.  Met during American war.  He married her. Took her America. She has rich son.  No worry… Thai women want good life with western, rich man…Want a to marry a father like Tiger, no?”

Got it. It clicked. Vietnam War started this fantasy trend of the Western male rescuing poor Thai women.  And, Tiger Woods’  mother perpetrated this myth for she married a Western male and produced a super talented, promiscuous son.  She’s the poster child for possibilities for Thai women.  Just one more reason to celebrate our Tiger Woods…

Yesterday, I did the tourist thing. Took a boat cruise to four Thai islands off the coast of Krabi. You know, one of those tourist junkets where you load up about twenty on a boat carved out of wood and motor to “four islands in six hours.”

It was here I met a REAL one – young Thai bride and an old fart. Found each other in a chat room. Married a year later. He works in Baghdad. She still lives with her mom.

Quick description. He’s about 60+. Arms, shoulders and ankles colored with military symbols and lady tattoos. Skin soaked with either age spots or scars. Bald head wrapped tightly in a light purple dew-rag bandana. Extra skin protrudes around the edges. From his neck, dangles purple polarized glasses.

Looked to be missing back teeth. Bottom teeth were brown from coffee, tobacco or bad hygiene.  Blue long swim trunks pulled tight around his middle. Black muscle t-shirt pulled tightly around his beer belly and arms. Thick ankles.  Thick neck. Thick hands. Heineken in hand at 9 AM. Oh, forgot about the gold studded pierced tongue. In other words, cruise into any dive bar – from a biker bar to fish-camp bar, and you’re likely to find his twin brother.

Thai girl? She’s about 20 or younger. Long black hair, later found out they were extensions. Tan skin. Plucked eyebrows. Purple eyebrow pencil. Angelina Jolene lips. Full set of white teeth. Dainty hands. Petite ankles. Flat tummy with two gold belly piercings. Matching, gold studded tongue piercing. Tattoos on her thumb and wrists. Itsy-bitsy black bikini.  Mini-diamond ring. Looks like she’s been through a hair removal program.

Question was how to strike up a conversation. Couldn’t just say, “Hey, did you buy the bride?” No. Had to go covert.

As I waited for our boat, I found some children, birds and trash to play with. Cute kids. Need to understand Thai’s fascination with birds and bird cages though.

Anyway, the boat pulled up. I followed the couple onto the boat. They headed to the front and I followed.

There was another couple perched up front. Found out later from Finland. I squished my body next to them. Smiling all the time. Old Fart and Young Bride sat across. Mission accomplished.

We pulled up at our first island. Jumped off. They walked ahead of me. I noticed my camera card was full. Found a cave.  A cave of fertility. Not the cave I was looking for. It’s the cave where Thai women worshiped wooden dildos. We’re talking all sizes. All colors. All shapes. A true Kodak moment. Put some pictures in below. For full enjoyment, check out the photo album to the left of this posting.

Before I could immortalize the hundreds of dildos on my camera, I had to delete pictures. I sat my tall frame on a mini-rock, away from the monkeys, and near the bride, groom and dildo shrine, to delete photos. Old Fart and Young Thai walked into the cave. Seemed not to be surprised by the hundred of dildos plastered, hanging and protruding.

Old Fart, in a thick-drawl, “better pics around the corner…better views..” I told him about my camera problems. He laughed. She laughed. He initiated conversation. SCORE! I’m in.

Screw the view. I’m shooting the dildos. The Goddesses are going to LOVE their smiling faces pushed up next to dildos the size of orange traffic cones. What makes it even more funny is the Goddesses all have kids. Their issue IS fertility.

It begins to rain. We all get back on the boat. Same places. Old Fart starts the conversation..

Old Fart: “Did you get some good photos? Get the view?”

Me: “Yes. Thank you….Where are you all from?”

Old Fart: “I’m from Fort Worth. They call it Dallas, Fort Worth – but it’s just Fort Worth. Retired US Marine. Served 38 years. If my back did not go out, I would still be serving. In the construction business. In Baghdad. Got some time off to see my wife.”

They smile. I smile at them. Nod.

Me: “So, how did you meet?”

Old Fart: “Chat room. I pursued her for a full year before she said she would marry me. Traveled to Bangkok twice.  Even met her mom…Went after her hard….”

She smiles. Nods. Smiles at him. Barely touches him… I take notice.

Old Fart continues, “I live Baghdad. She lives in Bangkok with her mom. I come to Bangkok whenever I can get off. I have three weeks off now. Longest off in a while. Got married last year. I hate the city. I told her, I can’t live in the city. So, we go to the Thai islands when I come…

Now, you need to see other Thai islands…. there is a nude beach on the other side. Great beach. Not as rough as this water. We like the nude beaches.  Get a full tan…”

He smiles. I see his brown teeth for the first time. He turns and grins at her, reaching for her hand.  She smiles back and squeezes his hand.

Me: “Yea, not into the nude beach scene…. I burn easy….Pale skin. I have to cover up… Skin cancer…”

He did not hear a word of what I said. Only thing he heard was “PRUDE” girl. Yea, I would think the same thing if I were him.  I wanted to add that I steer clear of nude beaches because I don’t want to see people like you fully exposed….

Finish man next to me: “What part of England are you from?” This question was directed at me. England? Wow. Do I sound that proper? Intelligent? Uptight. LOVE THIS!

Me: “I’m not from England. I’m from Florida.”

Try that response sometime and imagine the expression. Finish man looks at his wife and they quickly converse in Finish.

Me: “Yea.  That’s right.  I’m from Florida. Disney World? Micky Mouse?  Do I sound English to you? Proper? Smart?”

Finish: “You no sound like American…Your accent good. Me, I learned English from the Russians. American accent is hard to understand..I understand British and Russian English accent….”

Russians again… They are EVERYWHERE…

Me: “You learned English from the Russians? Do you know how strange that sounds to me? I don’t understand.”

Finish: “Yes.  I was in the Finish Coast Guard. Now retired. Did a lot of work with Russians.  Finland and Russia have a long history – not a good history. Now, I do work in Antarctica…”

Me: “You mean the Arctic. It’s closer…right?”

Finish: “No. Go to Antarctica. Very cold. Not much fun. Nothing to do. A lot of research… I get away from Russia, no?” He starts to laugh. I don’t get the joke, but I have a feeling his slamming the Russians.

Me: “I’m from Florida. I don’t understand the desire to live, work or sleep near the arctic circles…Not fond of penguins and polar bears. Take  a liking to alligators, sharks and mosquitoes…”

Finish man looks confused, as I intended. I laughed. Sometimes I just crack myself up at others’ expense. When you’re traveling alone, you have to do this sometime —

The boat stops at another island. It looks the same. The smiley tour guide gives us a long explanation of the island. He talks about a sandbar. He’s really excited about the sandbar as are other people who are not from Florida or lives near an ocean. I didn’t hear any of it. I wanted to be back in the conversation with the Old Fart and Young Thai.

I did the obligatory walk across the sandbar to another island.  It was very pretty – don’t get me wrong. Breathtaking. I found a toilet on the other island, so it was worth the walk.

Also, I found interesting the Thai bathing suit attire. If you are not cozening up next to an old, hairy, white, fat male, then the Thai women wear surf shorts and t-shirts. No bathing suits. The Indian couple with beautiful dark skin swapped out their surf shorts for leggings and a long sleeve shirts. The only ones wearing actual swimsuits showing obscene skin were the Europeans, Scandinavians, Canadians, Australians and Americans.  All the ones more prone to skin cancer. I seriously think I was Asian in another life.

We climb back on the boat. Leaving sandbar island. Next stop is Chicken Island.

Me: “So, what is it like living in Baghdad? Is it really getting any better?”

Old Fart: “Depends who you ask. The PM is corrupt. That’s not news. It’s how things get done over there. We just see it differently. Sunnis and Shiites are still killing each other – have been doing it for thousands of years – no news there. They’ll keep killing – with or without US troops there.

A lot of business in Baghdad. It’s the wild wild West. A lot of Slavs are in Baghdad. Hire them for my crew. Work for cheap. Work for less than what we pay Iraqis.  Nigerians are coming too.  Low cost  labor has arrived…  Baghdad is looking like an international city…Surely ticking off the locals, if you know what I mean.  A lot of US money there.  A lot of European money. Just a lot of money… Building. Keeps me in business.

Me: What do you do?

Old Fart: I’m a project manager for construction projects. I just tell them, “let me get it done…don’t ask questions.’  My best workers are Iraqis. I promote them to foreman or project manager. Very smart. Hard working.

No women in Baghdad. I mean no real women. I’ve got my real woman here… Once she get’s a VISA, I’m retiring. Done…. Yea, they pay me well. Able to buy a house…

Me: Do you see a lot of death? Killing?

Old Fart: Yea, I’ve seen many men and women getting killed. That’s war. What do you expect.

Iraqis I worked with have had their entire families hacked up. They take off a few days work. Come back… Can’t explain it – but that’s the way it is. Americans don’t get it. Media doesn’t get it. Don’t watch the news. My mom calls and tells me what’s going on – and I tell her, Naaaa…didn’t happened like that… not that bad… not true…You know how it is. What US doesn’t get – is it is not the US. Not America. I love my country. Proud to serve…I would do it all again tomorrow – no questions ask. Marine for life.

Me: Do you want children?

Old Fart: “Why not…. I have three grown kids back home. Flew home a few months ago for my daughter’s wedding.  Bride couldn’t come. No Visa. Yea, we’re married, but they still wouldn’t let her in.

I wanted my kids to meet her – my bride. Yea, we could have some kids…”

She touched is arm. Cozyed next to his hairy armpit. He asked her to get her another beer. We’re pushing around noon time, so it is beer time. She jumped up and yelled in Thai something about more beer upfront. I think I will have one too. I think I need one. Next on the docket was some snorkeling.  Beer goes well with breathing underwater.

They brought their own gear and proceeded to tell me how much they paid for their mask, flippers and shoes…bathing suit. She smiled and added, “very cheap in Thailand…no?” He called her “mama” and told her how to put on the flippers. You could tell she very well knew, but she just nodded, smiled and did what he said.

And, guess what, it works. I mean, I was expecting to see something horrid. Terrible. Like he whacks her or something. None of that was true. He treated her well. His voice filled with calmness and respect for her, even when he was telling her what to do. And, who am I to judge whether this marriage is good, bad or indifferent. It seems they have what they want.  A partner.  Or, a caretaker – looking after each other. He cares for her monetarily. Gives her safety. Options. Freedom. She cares for him emotionally. Giving him comfort. Stability. And, no sass.

And, she is lucky for he DID marry her. I’ve seen so many old men – Western, Chinese, Japanese – with beautiful Thai woman on their arms. You know they are just paying for sex. Or, telling them wild fantasies about how they are going to take care of them, but never returning. You hear stories like this in the states too. Universal.

As we parted, I thanked him for his service with tears in my eyes. It takes a special, unique person to serve that long in the military. In war. Serving for the freedoms of our country. Go and travel the world – and you’ll have a new respect for our country. For the majority of the people in the world, they don’t have the freedom to bitch, gather or pray like we do. We take it for granted. I certainly did…

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