After my first night out in Pattaya, Thailand, when I met a woman on a blind date arranged by one of my best friends, I sat up in bed and I thought about the details of the night before. We had started in The Pig and Whistle, where I was staying on Soi 7.
The Pig is a lovely, quiet, tranqu
We ventured outside into the soi (lane) and into a torrent of people not dissimilar to that of a queue heading for a football match, except that all the women were dressed in skimpy clothes. We had called into one of those outdoor bars, where my friend had a surprise awaiting me.
His girlfriend of a time, whom I knew nothing of and a friend of hers who wanted to meet up with me. The four of us had dallied there an hour before wandering the thirty metres to Beach Road.
The traffic is one-way on Beach Road, so we took a Baht Taxi North (a pick-up truck) going with the flow and got off two or three kilometres further on just before Walking Street, which is the most notorious street in Pattaya.
We had gone into a complex of bars and sat in one at random. It was only then that I realized that the bars were all set out surrounding a Muay Thai boxing ring, where the fighting was uninterrupted and free, although foreigners are expected to give a prize to the winner of each bout of 20-100 Baht ($1-$3).
We stayed there an hour and moved on to Walking Street to have something to eat. We dined at a seafood specialist restaurant which has a pier or jetty as its dining area. The food was fantastic and the mood was romantic with the moon reflecting on the sea and the atmospheric lighting.
I don’t think that I had a chance in reality, I fell for my gorgeous date that night and I saw her each day for the remainder of my 30 days vacation. We had a brilliant time and when I had to go, I resolved to find out if I could settle in Thailand.
I went home and calculated, that if I was cautious and a few things fell in my favour, I would most likely have enough money to stay there for ten years.
Six weeks later, I went back to Thailand and Joy was waiting for me at the airport. Nothing had changed between us and we took a bus to visit her family in northern Thailand.
We slept in a room that her brother had given up for us and everybody made me feel very welcome. Joy’s family live in a traditional teak home built on stilts and everybody lived and slept in one space in the traditional way, with the exception of Joy’s brother, who had built an extension, because he was eager to get married soon.
I really like that village and still live there now, seven years on. Joy and I are married and have our own home – a traditional, European, concrete-block bungalow not five metres from Joy’s mum, who is a fantastic mother-in-law.
Her family appear to understand what a big step it was for me to come here alone and are determined to be there for me, if I need help, like my own family in Britain would be. The job at hand is learning Thai as no one else in the village, except for my wife, speaks English.