As I read a news article about another foreigner “falling” from a Pattaya hotel balcony, I shake my head for the umpteenth time.
A recent Thai TV news report put the suicide rate amongst foreigners living in Pattaya at an average of one per week. That's known suicides, as opposed to the “falls” that happen on a regular basis.
Many believe the “falls” are set-ups in one of the following ways:
1. Guy goes back to his hotel with a prostitute who, after leading him into a false sense of security on the balcony, pushes him over and then robs his hotel.
2. Similar circumstances but set up by a “girlfriend”, with the help of her friends or a Thai “mafia” guy. I don't buy it. As crazy as things get in the coastal town, these suicides are more likely a case of being drunk and falling over the balcony, or, considering the escalating number of suicides, suicide due to depression.
I recently watched a documentary entitled “Thailand, Torn Between Two Worlds” that reminded me of just why foreigners do get depressed in Pattaya, and in many parts of Thailand.
The story follows Adam, a 27-year-old living a depressing existence in Middlesbrough, UK. He jumps from menial job to menial job, drowns his sorrows in cans of beer at the end of the day and has a bleak outlook on how life will pan out if he stays in such a miserable and relatively deprived area. His school friend – the documentary maker – wants to help him see another side of life – so he buys him a ticket to Pattaya.
Adam becomes the cliche. He goes to Pattaya, falls for a hooker and goes back to Middlesbrough saying things like “Thailand is different, the people have f**k all but they're happy”.
He quickly hatches a plan to return and teach English, saying that the girl, Pen, has nothing to do with his wanting to return. He quits his job, leaves his mum in tears fearing he might not return, and he looks forward to life in a country where everything appears smiley and full of hot women who love the way he looks.
Adam fakes a degree on his CV, yet with no TEFL or CELTA struggles to find work in Bangkok. The city hustle and bustle quickly gets him down as it appears his dream might have to end.
He begins to resent the insincerity of Thai people, which is sparked by a woman in a bar asking him for money to help him find work. At the end of his tether, he hits Nana Plaza, but only ends up feeling worse when he realises “these are all prostitutes” and that the pay for play scene is at the heart a depressing place.
Adam ends up back in Pattaya looking for work, and for Pen, who incidentally had been sending him messages while he was back home. He fails to find work, but is offered the money to do his TEFL by a generous expat business owner, on the condition that he stays afterwards.
Despite wanting to stay, he turns down the offer. Reality kicks in as he realises that the girls don't really like you for you, and the only way you can survive without work is if you have a retirement fund.
He returns home with his experience of Thailand in pocket, no doubt spreading the good word that Thailand is full of hookers, aging western men and people trying to rip you off. I guess it is, if you live in Pattaya…
Yes. You have probably heard a similar story a hundred times, but this is an interesting documentary and well worth watching. It does an excellent job of personifying that craving we have all been through.
That urgency to get back to Thailand after having had that first bite of the apple. Yet watching Adam, one thing really stood out for me, and that was that the defining factor in a successful relocation to Thailand is down to who you end up following here: the company you keep, the area you live in and the ignorance you choose to wallow in.
If you're unhappy within yourself and your surroundings when you leave your own country, you will struggle to be happy in a place like Pattaya. If you're looking for people to like you, appreciate you, even love you, you are putting yourself in a very vulnerable position in a place like Pattaya – which is a place primarily frequented by guys who want to drink beer in the sun and hang out/sleep with hookers.
It's a charade. The smiles and the heels masquerade the emptiness of the women in the trade, and the beer and bravado the same for many guys.
And so it begs the question: Why would a good friend take you to Pattaya to see another side of life?
This “life” is one that every working girl in Pattaya is trying to escape. It's a life where you find yourself surrounded by hookers, hustlers, thieves, exploiters and charlatans; everything a city based around sex for cash becomes. It attracts a lot of undesirables, sociopaths and criminals. IMO, a good friend doesn't take a depressed friend to a place capable of breaking the smile of the Dalai Lama.
While the documentary was interesting, it annoyed and frustrated me because it misrepresents Thailand and doesn't offer a balanced viewpoint. The producer missed every opportunity to point out to his subject, Adam, that he hadn't really seen any of Thailand, just Pattaya and a bit of Bangkok.
Pattaya isn't Thailand, and is a misrepresentation of Thailand. You could live there for thirty years and leave knowing nothing of Thai people or Thai culture, which why it's such a shame that people fly home after visiting the three red light streets of Bangkok (Nana, Cowboy, Patpong), or the Walking Street and Beach Road of Pattaya, or Patong (Phuket) or Chaweng (Samui) and speak of Thailand like they are Bill Bryson. It's like saying the red light district in Amsterdam represents Holland and its people, or the back streets of Soho represents London.
Thailand's most infamous resident, Tim Sharky, once said, the only way to survive in Pattaya is to remember that nothing is real. He's right, and if you go there half broken, you might just break completely. Effectively, you go from a depressing life at home into a world that is a facade. And when the facade begins to reveal its truth, your naked desperation, insecurity and general unhappiness is exposed.
When you find yourself starring down the bottom of a beer bottle, Viagra coursing through your veins, sleep deprived, poorer, more depressed, surrounded by people you can't trust, girls who make fun of you in Thai and don't really find you attractive, with only beer-bar friends for company, many of whom are in a worse state than yourself, and no family around to turn to, cashing in your chips begins to look like an option.
Had he stayed longer, I feel Adam might have been the next one to “fall” from a balcony.
If you'd like to watch it on Amazon Prime or buy the film, grab it on Amazon here