Note: Farang is the Thai slang for 'westerner'.
My favourite way to kill time while commute to work on Bangkok’s only SkyTrain is reading and listening to music, sometimes engaged in both simultaneously. It’s a good 30 minutes I look forward to every day. On one glorious day, mild sunlight shone through the mirrored glass and formed a comforting layer on my back easing the chill within the train, as I flipped through my magazine trying to find the last page where I’d left off, I overheard a sassy Thai girl on my right talking on her mobile with her girlfriend about how she rejected a farang friend’s sexual advances last night, all proclaimed amid numerous multiracial passengers.
I sensed that this must be good so I put my fingers between the pages and was all ears. Here is the gist of what she spoke unnecessarily loudly (English is in italic). “Girl, we went to this fabulous club, danced like crazy and he tried to get me drunk, right? Only he was drunk first… Anyway, we went back to his car and suddenly he was all over me. I was like ‘Fuck you man! Get lost!’ and just stormed out of his car!”
Upon hearing those sweet words, I pondered why she was so generous to share her latest misconduct of her boy friend to us. Although I did enjoy her girl power, it was a bit out of place. It is very unusual for a Thai to express personal intimacies or strong emotions in any audience, especially amongst strangers. OK, she might be more progressive than your average Thai Joe and Jane but I can’t help but think that did she tell the story as a way to misguidedly boast up her self-esteem in public? She wanted the whole SkyTrain to know how pissed off she really was? Or that she has a westerner friend who wanted to grope her? Or that she enjoys nightlife and can swear in English too? What’s with the jabbering of English words in Thai colloquialisms? Was she trying to prove something?... Am I overly analysing this?
I have my reasons to doubt, though. My theory is that some Thais associate themselves with western influences to appear and feel superior to their fellow countrymen, turning certain values into yet another quest for status and putting themselves up on a pedestal above peers.
To cite a vivid example via a story told by my dear Farang friend who has been in Thailand for over a decade, who was strolling in a department store and noticed two Thai women chatting away in their language. As they walked past her, one of them glanced at her and switched into a would-be English-speaking Caucasian for no relevant reason except to show the blonde madame that she could speak English and to remind her friend of her “Western” status.
With the help of someone’s ring tone, I caught myself before I actually blabbered any of these thoughts out loud and resumed reading my magazine. As I looked down on my lap there was the first page of Robert De Niro’s interview in January issue of GQ I bought in early February at a bargain price. Trying to drown out other noises, I felt my jeans’ pocket where my portable MP3 player filled with self-picked tracks from Jamie Cullum, Coldplay, and U2 was tucked. Then I froze.
In my home DVD player, I had the first disc of Arrested Development Season 3 waiting for me. Plus, I’ve been trying to find a used copy of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon to complete Dr. Lector’s trilogy.
Quickly, I closed my GQ and put it promptly in my shoulder bag, contemplating…who really is the biggest phony of them all. Pornchai - Maverick House Asia