Monday, May 14, 2007

Hangin' by the B....

Having finished reading Thai Girl by Andrew Hicks two weeks ago, which took me about a month, a major feat for my reading speed, I was left with a lingering feeling of loss and a 'what's next...' syndrome, thanks in no small way to the unresolved ending of the book. Thanks, Andrew! You took me for a wild ride, hit the brakes in the middle of nowhere, got off the bus with the engine still running and ran off to who knows where.

One thing's for sure, though. This is not your typical love story where the guy ALWAYS gets the girl in the end, however much they twist and contort the plot that leads up to that ending. No Mills-and-Boons-book-jackets kind of humping anywhere in the book, but lots of dialogues between the two main characters during massage sessions about the female lead's life, and in the process, giving us more than a glimpse into the life of the Thais of different parts, particularly the plight of village girls who were sent out to work in the cities. You can find the synopsis of the book, as well as other information by clicking on the heading. There's no need for me to repeat what has been done to death already, i.e. book reviews and synopses, available everywhere else with a Google search.

Of course, there are the expected expose on subjects like poverty and sex tourism in Thailand, as seen through the eyes of the people the main character, Ben, met during his adventure in Thailand. Beneath that layer, however, as I discovered, lies an understated, silent narrative about reaching for something within our sight but not within our grasp, of frustration and a certain sense of helplessness. Oh, how frustrating Ben must have felt in his pursuit of Fon, the charming and innocent but strong-willed masseuse who works on a beach resort. Then there's the tension of how certain trades are seen as a taboo in society in general, yet accepted as a mean to avert the highly undesirable effects of poverty. The girls who ply them are often cast in an unholy duality of being the financial pillars of their poor families and the stereotypical sex-off-the-shelf, much to their resignation and that of the people dear to them. One of the many backlashes of such 'sacrifices' is, according to what Fon told Ben, that being seen around a farang alone raises the suspicion that the girl in question is a bar girl (typically from Pattaya, so implies Fon), or someone who's tagging along the farang for the money.

On the flip side, would that imply that a foreigner scooting around a Thai girl is necessarily a sex tourist of some sort? Could there not be a more benign relationship between a Thai girl and a non-Thai man? With this comes also the eternal struggle between supply and demand, each trying to make the other the root of all their following evils. You will discover, weaved in the story, many of these really grey tales snaking across what's not wrong, what's justifiable and what's tolerated like a tuk-tuk driver through the Bangkok streets, with nary a judgment being made. Most probably because no one has the answer.

Hey, perhaps Andrew Hicks didn't intend to make such a bellyhoo of a philosophical statement in his book. Maybe it's more borne out of the empathy I had for Ben through real experiences in Thailand. Perhaps it's also a reflection of the way life is, that there are simply no answers to certain things that challenge our thirst for a justification in whatever befall us. Who knows?
Oh, yeah. You will get to learn a few Thai words along the way.

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