Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: Bangkok, Thailand

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRISTINA BAUDIN

Mai, 23

What do you do for a living?
I’m a vendor at a night time indie vintage market. People sell old clothes, things people make themselves, t-shirts from punk bands, that kind of thing. I sell colored hair dyes, that’s why I have 4 colors in my hair now.

Do you like working there?
Yeah, I like it, it’s fun. The vendors are like a family.

Do guys hit on you when you are working?
Yes, always.

What kind of things do they say?
They just try to start casual conversations and flirt.

What is Thai flirting like?
They might invite me somewhere or start talking about what I’m selling or tell me they like my hair. Because of the way I look, guys tend to see me as bold and they expect me to be really wild. Sometimes they act crazy to try to get my attention.

Do you like that?
I’m indifferent to it.

Are you actually bold?
Umm, I don’t think so. I’m kinda shy.

Have you ever dated anyone you met at the market?
Yes, my boyfriend but he wasn’t a customer. He’s a vendor at the market too.

What did he say to you?
I bought something from his stall and he asked for my LINE information. He made up a reason to ask me, he said he thought maybe we could start placing orders for supplies together and save money on shipping costs. But it wasn’t true. He liked me. But I liked him too so I didn’t care that he made up a story. I thought it was cute.

How long have you been with him?
One month!

So, it’s new. Are you happy?
Yes, so so happy [she nods her head vigorously with a huge smile].

What did you like about him?
He is supporting his family, he is a good guy. Anything I need help with, he’ll be the first person to be there. He is supportive and helpful and manly, that’s what I like about him.

What are some qualities that you don’t like in guys?
I don’t like skinny guys.  They just don’t look good to me. They seem feminine. My boyfriend is tall and big and not girly at all.

Is there a lot of dating between vendors at your market?
Some people always do it and other people never do. We spend a lot of time there so it is bound to happen. But some people have a boyfriend or girlfriend somewhere else. There’s a lot of cool people working in the market so it’s not too surprising that some of us end up dating each other.

Is it awkward when there is a breakup between people who work at the market?
No, we all know that we are there for work and we have to be professional. The mindset is mostly on selling things and making a living. Everyone still talks to each other and we try not to let personal feelings get in the way.

Earth, 26

What do you do for a living?
I’m a photographer. I shoot fashion, for magazines, advertisements anything really. I do projects just for fun, too.

What are you holding?
It’s a head camera used to make photos and videos of street racing, bikes, that sort of thing.

What are you working on tonight?
Just fooling around with it, really. Looking to see if there was anyone out to shoot.

Are you in a relationship?
Yes.

How did you meet your girlfriend?
She’s a model and she was on a shoot where I was working too.  We just started talking and I got her Facebook information. She was really beautiful. Then we started chatting online and we made plans to go out. It’s been a while now.

What did you like about this particular girl?
No, I don’t like her. Not at all.

So, why a relationship?
[laughs]

C’mon, everyone loves models!
Personally, I don’t like models. They are too shallow, but I meet a lot of them at work. It’s a habit, a trap. I don’t know why I keep doing it. It never works out. All the models in Thailand, all they care about is money. They want to know where you can take them, what your job is, what kind of car you drive. What you can do for them and so they can look fancy in front of their friends.

I don’t want to make a generalization, but it seems like Thai women are very interested in money.
Yes… Hmm…interested in money, yes, very. Sometimes it seems like the only thing they are interested in. I don’t know. If they have been poor, they are looking for security. If they have money, they are looking for another guy on their level. So, yeah, they are all interested.

So, you don’t like your girlfriend. Are you going to break up with her?
No, she might be the last girl for me.  The last one ever. She’s talented, she knows what she wants and will go for it. Anything.

So, why don’t you like her?
Thai guys are afraid of bold women. They scare us. We don’t know what to do with them. We are used to shy girls but now, that’s the traditional thing. Now, it’s just different.  She’s bold.

But you don’t like her?
Yeah, I don’t like her, but I love her.

Poe, 33

What do you do?
I’m a henna artist. I do temporary tattoos on people. Either traditional designs with brown ink or black ones that look like tattoos.

Do men ever hit on you while you are working?
Yes, it happens all the time.

What do they say or do if they are into you?
Haha, I don’t know. I get a lot of guys saying they want a henna tattoo in a place where they have to take off some clothes for me to do it. They will take off the shirt if they want to get henna on their chest, but really I think they just want to show off their bodies. The really brazen ones will ask for it on their hip or something and take down their pants a little bit.

Tell me more.
Once there was a guy that got a tattoo on his lower stomach and afterwards he wanted me to take a picture of him with the finished design. That’s not that unusual. But when he handed me his phone to take the picture, he pulled his underwear down too and said, “Don’t get my dick in the picture though.” That was crazy.

Eugh. Did you ever date anybody you met through your work?
No, I’ve had a boyfriend for six years, longer than I’ve been doing this job. But I don’t think I would date someone I met here anyway.

What’s the worst thing that ever happened while giving someone a henna tattoo?
Haha, what I hate the most, and it happens regularly, is when people get henna and they make pained faces like they are actually getting a real tattoo and it hurts. I’m not sure if they are trying to be funny but it’s just annoying. I’m surprised how many people do that. Are they practicing for when they get a real tattoo?

What kind of guys do you like?
Skaters. 

Why?
My boyfriend is a skater and now it’s just the type I like.  They are usually in good shape and have good style and like the same kind of music as me.

How did you meet your boyfriend?
I met him at a practice space where my band was rehearsing. I play drums and he plays bass. We weren’t in the same band, but I would see him coming and going and liked him.

Are you in love?
Yes.

Is there anything he could do to make you end things with him?
If he had someone else, I couldn’t be with him anymore.

Dennis, 24

What do you do?
I work for a medical company doing translation from Thai to English.

Does your job ever get you dates?
No, not really. I’m pretty much in an office all day.

How do you find dates in Bangkok?
I’ll just be at a bookstore or market and just go up to a girl and start talking to her.

Are you in a relationship now?
Yes, for about 5 months, but it’s rocky right now.

Tell me about it.
It’s a Thai tradition that the guy has to give her the whole world: he has to have a car, money, job and all that stuff. Her mom, obviously, wants all that stuff for her too and her mom also wants a Thai guy for her and I’m not. I’m not any of that stuff. I’m just not.

Are you not Thai?
I mean, I’m Thai. But I was born and raised in Texas, I’m more American. I have Thai values and a lot of American ones too.

Has this happened to you before?
Yeah, I had a really similar situation with my ex. She ended up leaving me to go back to her ex-boyfriend because he could provide more for her.

So, girls are really interested in what you have?
Oh yeah.

How are Thai girls different from American girls?
I think American girls they know hardships and what it takes to get a car or pay rent or go to school.

Thai girls aren’t like that? This isn’t exactly a rich country.
Uh, it might have been just my life. Meeting the type of Thai girls that I meet. Privileged ones. The families are very well-off.  My girlfriend is about to graduate college and she has her first part-time job now. So, I don’t think she’s in touch with some things. She really wants me to get a car, but I can’t afford it right now and you don’t need a car in Bangkok, it’s just a status thing.

So, what can you guys do to resolve that?
It’s gotten better.  I’ve talked to her about it. I’ve told her, if you care about me, you’ll accept me. Her mom’s gotten better too. I still don’t think she totally accepts me but…

What’s an ideal date for you in Bangkok?
Trying out new restaurants, maybe catch a movie.

What’s the worst date you’ve been on?
Ohhhh! Let’s see. It was a girl from New Zealand. She kinda tricked me into going on a date. She said, “Hey, come out with me and my mates. There’s gonna be three of us. We’re gonna go watch Wolverine and get something to eat.” So, I was like, “That’s cool, I don’t have many friends.”

Haha, what?
Yah, I’m a lonely bastard. So, I go to see her and we meet on this bench. And she’s alone. I was like, “Where’s your friends?” and she was like, all smiley, “Oh, they couldn’t make it!” And I was like, “Oh no, this isn’t gonna turn out good.” 

So you thought it was like a date?
Yeah.

But you weren’t attracted to her?
No.

Why?
….

Be honest!
I really was looking to make a group of friends and knowing that she had possibly tricked me, that was really unattractive to me and I couldn’t be into her after that.

Was she ugly?
She wasn’t that cute. But that wasn’t the main thing. The main thing was like, “Wow, why would she do that? If she would trick me into this, what else would she trick me into?”

What do Thai guys consider cute?
Oh, it’s very different from Americans. Feminine frame, white pale skin, funny haircuts…

Funny haircuts?
Yeah, like toucan colors, or weird, artsy, spiky, different on both sides.

Oh, like quirky hairstyles? Why is that cute?
I think it comes from loving anime and anything cutesy and from intense love for k-pop bands and all things Korean, really.

What’s a dealbreaker for you in a relationship?
You gotta like dogs. I have 5 dogs back in the states.