Bangkok is one of the world’s premier people watching destinations.
In the heart of Phrom Phong sits Soi 33/1; an enclave of British and Irish drinking establishments and a position ripe for some of Sukhumvit’s most amusing fly-on-the-wall encounters.
Take the Robin Hood, for example.
Spend an hour in here and you are certain to witness an awkward first date, or perhaps even the lubrication of a soon-to-be Soi Cowboy-powered evening.
It is here where Khon Thai and Khon Farang mingle on mutually appealing turf.
- For the Farang, inside a pub.
- For the Thai, directly adjacent to the BTS station and the sweet freedom of escape.
The Tale of a First Date at the Robin Hood
So here I am, peacefully chowing down on my Steak and Ale pie, as at the table next to me sits a supreme mismatch of twenty-something singletons:
A young, famished American man and his date for the evening – a spectacularly overdressed Thai lady.
(I believe the term is Skoy?)
It transpired that this was a hastily arranged Tinder gathering. And it showed.
The silence that quickly engulfed the couple had me nervously dribbling gravy on their behalf.
This was no sexually-charged silence – this was just pure laziness.
If you find yourself on a first date with a Thai, you might consider wanting to appear traditional, classy, polite.
In one word: respectable.
First impressions: they’re important, right?
What you don’t want to do is park up in slacks, barely acknowledge your date, start playing an aggressive game of footsie, while scrolling through your phone to see if you can recall her name in your Deleted messages.
Or mention your sleeping problems.
“Sorry I was late. Too much Melatonin last night. Only just woke up. So, er, what do you do anyway?”
Seemingly making the best of it, the woman bravely listed off her work and passions, doing her best to ignore the gormless stare of Casper the Heroin Addict across the table.
The resigned disappointment in her voice was palpable.
“What about you?” she volleyed back to him.
A few agonising moments passed before he even acknowledged the question.
“I just like hanging out. Taking it easy, y’know.”
“So how do you think this is going? You having fun?” he probed.
Well, I can tell you, Casper.
And I’m just a passive observer on the next table.
- You’re making no eye contact,
- More interested in ripping the label from your water bottle,
- Slumped 45 degrees backwards in your chair,
- And clearly expecting your date to put out for no discernibly good reason.
Nothing says, “This date is going, frankly, quite badly” like the guy who has to ask his consort whether she enjoys his limply insipid company.
In fact, this encounter marked the first (and only) time I’ve seen a Thai outdrink a Westerner, as she literally threw glass after glass of Sauvignon down her face as our flaccid Farang listed off his many sleep ailments.
A fine advertisement for Tinder, indeed.
The Tale of a Dutch Man Netting a Triple Bonanza
One of my favourite Robin Hood memories is the sight of a huge Dutch guy barrelling through the doors and plumping himself at the nearest table — occupied by three coquettish Thai women.
He introduces himself to them, one by one, massive paws shaking shy feline hands, while simultaneously barking an extensive drink order at the waitress.
Soon enough, their whole table is uproarious in a maelstrom of shots, spirits and sexual tension.
Knees are rubbed, sweet nothings passed between ears. The inevitable ‘after-party’ is nigh.
About an hour later the guy leaves with all three women hanging off his arm — a resounding success — and a smug glance to the rest of the pub. Evidently, we have been shown the way.
Little does he know that everybody else is sober enough to see they are all quite clearly ladyboys.
A common mistake?
Everybody knows a John Doe who received an ‘unexpected surprise’ in the throes of passion.
But not every John Doe receives three of them in one night.
Farang x Thai x Marriage
Of course, not every Robin Hood love story concludes with a happy ending.
I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a future marriage dissipate during the course of one disastrous quiz night.
All thanks to Sin Sod.
Many Farang guys dating Thai women remain blissfully unaware of this customary exchange of hard cash before marriage.
Sin Sod can be problematic, especially if your only other hope of staying in Thailand is the increasingly embattled Tourist Visa:
British man reacts perfectly rationally to new Tourist Visa Requirements.
Not so fast, there…
What is Sin Sod?
It’s effectively the Thai version of a dowry.
If you want to marry a Thai woman, traditionally you would pay her family a cash lump sum. The value varies from family to family but will generally range from upwards of฿500,000 to a somewhat eyewatering sum if you have successfully breached the sphere of HiSo.
It is a sign of respect to offer Sin Sod, even if not all families adhere to the tradition.
So, quite a bombshell for a poor, in love farang.
Indeed, a catastrophic revelation over a few casual drinks for this soon-to-be-married farang whose fiancee clearly hadn’t yet addressed this minor marital sticking point, instead leaving it to his friends to drop over the clamour of a pub quiz.
“You’ve got to be joking, right? Pay five hundred grand for the privilege of continuing to pay for her for the rest of our lives? Tell me you’re f***ing kidding me.”
I felt sorry for the guy. His friends were absolutely hammering him.
What do you do when you discover the love of your life comes with a six-figure price tag?
Well, I’ll tell you what he did.
Within minutes he had elected to:
- Move to a smaller apartment,
- Nullify his gym membership,
- Say goodbye to the Food Panda,
- Switch to Chang, and
- Maybe get a new job.
That sounds about the size of it.
Make some noise for tradition, my friends.
He was found later slumped outside the pub, phone glued to his ear, chain smoking heavily, completely oblivious to the monsoon.
Didn’t even care.
Who knows what conversation he was having?
“True love, thaorai?”
All’s well that ends well at the Robin Hood.