$100K a year. He was single but rarely alone, he had plenty of money, and his future was bright.
He came to Thailand twice in six months. After his third trip, he made the decision to quit his job, move to Thailand, and start an online business that exported Thai products.
Two weeks before he departed, I received a call from him.
“You’ve been there a long time. You think you could help me start an online business?” he asked.
“Sure. How much money do you have?”
“$100,000 and some change,” he said.
We arranged to meet the day after he arrived. I put together a two-page list of what I thought he should do and waited patiently. Despite never traveling outside of Bangkok or doing one iota of research, Terry was dead-set on starting an internet business.
"Listen,” I told him. “Take a week or two to get settled and party, enjoy yourself, and get a feel for the place."
"Good idea," he said. "I'm stressed out and need some time to relax."
“In your downtime you can look around on the internet.”
A week went by, then two. Finally, he called.
"What do you think I should do first?" he asked.
I gave him a list of things to do, the first of which was to figure out what sort of products he wanted to sell.
"Do you want to sell silk? Paper goods, jewelry, furniture? Do you have any idea what you want to sell?
"No, not really." he said.
One thing I had wanted him to do while he was settling in was get to know Bangkok's shopping areas and establish relationships with various vendors. I also wanted him to travel around Thailand looking for test products.
He informed me he was ready to 'hit it hard,' and start the business.
“Budget $5000 for a month of traveling around,” I said. You’ll have $2500 for the test products and $2500 for traveling expenses. That should be more than enough.”
A month later, he called, but the tone of his voice told me everything. He wasn’t happy.
"I met a girl," he said. "She's driving me crazy."
I ignored him. "Have you finished everything on the list?"
“Nooooo,” he said, dejected.
Bangkok's nightlife was getting the better of him, as were Thai women. He was no closer to starting his business than when he first arrived.
"She’s so sweet and nice to me when we’re together," he said. “But I don’t understand her. She’s not like the girls back home.”
“She’s not like the girls back home because she’s Thai, you idiot.”
I pleaded with him to dump her before he got things got more serious so he could concentrate on his business. Once the business was fully functioning and earning him a few dollars, then maybe he would be in a better place emotionally and could think more clearly about women. As soon as my words reached his ears, he copped an attitude with me.
"You don't know this girl," he said. "She's helped me alot."
“What was the one thing I told you? Don’t get emotionally involved with a working girl.”
I knew all I had to know from what he told me. She worked as a freelance prostitute at the disco inside the Nana Hotel. Decent Thai women wouldn't be caught dead inside the place.
“No, she’s not like that” he said. “She just goes there to hang out with her friends. She doesn’t go with men.”
“She went with you, didn’t she? Believe me Terry, it's better if you cut her loose, that way you can focus on your business and you won't have her around as an extra expense."
Did he listen? Of course not. His girl was different — or so he thought.
I didn’t hear from him for nine months. I called him a couple of times but he never answered his phone. I gave up.
When I finally heard from him, he quickly told me he moving back home.
He had fallen madly in love with the Disco girl and things spiraled downward. While she was taking care of her sick mother, he was running around with other working girls, taking them shopping, buying them a trinket here or there, and of course, having sex with them. By his own admission, he already had four or five regulars in addition to the Disco girl! Assuming her golden goose might be cooked, Disco girl gave him an ultimatum; let her continue to work as a freelancer or give her the $1000 a month she needed. He agreed to give her the money.
"I felt sorry for her," he said. "Her mother really is sick. I’m not sure what’s wrong with her but she can’t move. She just lies in bed.”
"Your girl couldn't have tried to work in an office or at a hotel?" I asked.
“Even if she got a job, it wouldn’t be enough,” he said. “Her mother has no one to take care of her. That’s why she takes care of her — I just couldn't let her go back to work at the disco."
“So now you’re Captain Save-A-Whore to the rescue? Sucker…”
Despite spending the majority of her time taking care of her mother, Terry let her move in with him. Over the course of the next year, they took trips to Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Macau. They went everywhere in Southeast Asia. He made a feeble attempt at explaining he had only went to these places to search for products to export but he knew that I knew why he really went to these places.
“I guess the mother’s feeling better?” I asked.
“Her older sister is staying with her now.”
Turns out Terry had put the sister on the payroll too — $500 a month. The sister was only making half this at her old job.
Terry and Disco girl went everywhere together and always stayed in four or five-star hotels. Of course, everywhere they went he was sure to buy her a souvenir or two. They had great fun — while it lasted.
After their trip to Macau, she somehow convinced Terry to cough up 400,000 baht to rebuild her grandparent's house. Upon returning from their last trip, this time to Vietnam, she once again asked Terry if he would mind paying off their Isuzu pickup truck. Blind to the truth and irrationally in love, he gave her $5000.
Shortly thereafter, his bank balance reached $10,000. It dawned on him that he was sinking. When she asked for $1000 a few weeks after paying of their truck, he told her money was tight and he had no money to give. She bailed out. Just like that, the love affair was over. Granted, he’d blown through $90 grand but at least he had some start-up cash for when he got home.
Two months after leaving Bangkok, he called.
Within days of returning home, Terry somehow finagled a job earning more than he made before he came to Bangkok. He went out to a club to celebrate with several of his friends. Shortly after arriving, he saw a long-haired Vietnamese girl with a body that forced him to walk over and strike up a conversation. He got her number and several days later, they went out. Within a month they were boyfriend and girlfriend.
Some guys have all the luck — if you can call it that.
"I might come back for a visit when I get my vacation time," he said. "But I like my job and my new girlfriend and don't think I'll ever live in Thailand. It’s not for me."
If I dropped $90,000 on Thai hookers in less than a year, I would be hesitant to move back to Thailand. If I did move back, I'd be damn sure I learned my lesson.
That was the last conversation I ever had with Terry.
I guess he found enough of Asia in the U.S. to keep him happy.