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Escape to Thailand. Chapter 1





Matt Owens Rees

© Matt Owens Rees 2014

Matt Owens Rees has asserted his right under the Copyright Design and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in any retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission.

If you enjoyed this book, please encourage your friends to purchase and download their own copy and take a look at its companion volumes: Thailand Take Two, A Thailand Diary, and The Thai Way of Meekness.

Thank you for your support.


Names have been changed but Escape to Thailand is basically a biographical account of an English expat’s experiences, frustrations, and hopes on moving permanently to Thailand. It is written from Derek’s perspective not mine. We are showing what he experienced and sharing his story. There is much to read between the lines when he exposes his thoughts to us.

Some expats will be able to relate similar experiences; others will have widely different observations on their lives here. Not everyone who knows Derek thinks he really understands the Thais. Sometimes he fails to grasp what is really happening around him. It is an inability to realise that the culture in Thai society is very different from his own western way of thinking. He is not alone; many expats think as he does, as we shall see.

Following a bitter divorce and a forced early retirement from his job, Derek struggles with making the final decision to leave England for good and settle for the rest of his life in Thailand. We begin to understand the turmoil going on in his head when he realises what he is leaving behind in the land of his birth. We see from his questioning that he is still unsure whether he is doing the right thing or not.

One moment he is confident and contented; another, full of doubt and fear.

He explains how he felt about some of the cultural differences that awaited him and how he coped with them. He compares them with the very different experiences that some of his expat friends encountered. Culture shock is not the same for everyone.

We see him getting to grips with his new life but is he really settled here? Are there going to be some unpleasant surprises in store for him? Who is wearing the trousers? Derek or his wife Toy? Was he seeing only the acceptable parts of Thai life?

Escape to Thailand is biographical and not judgmental or critical of anyone. It looks at how a relationship between a farang and a Thai is not the same as that which will exist between two Thais. In the closing chapters, we glance at some personal pen portraits Derek has made of other expats he knows. Does he see similarities with his own life here? Can he perhaps learn something from their experiences? though it does draw parallels between Thai – foreigner and Thai – Thai relationships. They are vastly different as the reader may observe towards the closing chapters when the experiences of other farangs (white foreigners), other than Derek, are described.

The book leaves the reader to consider and try to understand the way events were unfolding. The problems of Thai and western relationships, even if they seem to be surmountable in the short term, are brought out in Derek’s version of his early days in Thailand. We have added explanatory notes in some places in the text.

With many insights into the lives of ordinary Thais, the biography becomes a “fly on the wall” experience for the reader. Seeing what the average tourist or visitor rarely sees.

The chapters of Escape to Thailand are in chronological order. However, if you wish to go to a particular chapter you can use the hyperlinks below or press ctrl and click in your browser window.

Chapter 1 We’re airborne

Chapter 2 A blind date

Chapter 3 No-show

Chapter 4 A Thai thief

Chapter 5 No words spoken

Chapter 6 Talking to my son

Chapter 7 Feeding the cat

Chapter 8 Problems at work

Chapter 9 I never looked back

Chapter 10 Burning my boats

Chapter 11 Feeling alone

Chapter 12 A reality check

Chapter 13 Expat clubs

Chapter Conclusion

Chapter 1 We’re airborne

Get off this plane now.

But it was too late. Thai Airways Flight TG 911 was preparing for take off. Rather an unfortunate flight number given, the events in America in 2001.

The 747 jumbo let loose the power of its four engines with a roar. With the brakes released, all 340 or so passengers, including me, were forced back into their seats as we gathered speed down runway 2 at London’s Heathrow Airport and started the ascent into the mid morning sky.

Thoughts of what would be awaiting me after 3 hours in the airport lounge and 13 hours of flying time were beginning to worry me. Had I really thought my situation out properly?

I gulped down yet another complimentary double scotch and hoped these would help me relax on what I was beginning to think would be a boring and tedious flight into the unknown.

I was embarking on a 12000 mile round trip for a blind date with a young woman, much younger than me, that I had met only on an internet-dating site. She had invited me over to Thailand on two previous occasions. I declined them all. This time, for reasons I was still uncertain of, I had decided to take up her offer. But was I thinking straight?

After 16 years, like so many other marriages it would seem, mine had suddenly hit a brick wall. With a divorce finalised and a major slice of my working life completed, I was facing a financial and personal crisis that I could not see my way around.

The only matter that remained following the divorce was the sale of the matrimonial home, and this was becoming a very protracted and tiresome issue. I was lucky to some extent. The house was large enough for both of us to lead separate lives. I lived in the self-contained granny annex. It became my sanctuary after the decree absolute. She lived in the main house. I was able to lead a near-normal life, returning home late into the evening after a long day at the office. Like many fathers, I saw my young son only at weekends.

My wife, however, seemed to be making sure that my son was fully committed in doing something else whenever I was around. She was leaving me very little time with him. I could see that this was going to be the pattern for the future. The only opportunities she allowed me to have with my son were when she decided she wanted to socialise and go out on the town. In her eyes, I was just the convenient unpaid baby sitter.

If I was ever delayed through being caught up in a traffic jam, she was always quick to point the nagging finger and say that I did not care a jot for my son. If it spoilt her planned excursions into the night, it was always down to me.

My neighbours, whom I had known for years, often saw me driving at break neck speed to return home, screeching down our drive just as she was bundling him in the car to dump him at a friend’s home for the evening. Nothing was going to spoil her own pre-planned evening soirée; and Michael would be left, without company of his own age, with an elderly couple he hardly knew.

She could do as she wanted. I could not be even two or three minutes late. My neighbours were sympathetic and could see what was going on. However, there was nothing anyone could do to counter the devious game she was determined to play.

My ex wife was 10 years younger than I was. Although she was always a little spoilt, we had had some good times together, and she did not lack for anything a young bride could wish for. I had a good job and every penny of my salary was spent on our home. She had every modern expensive appliance she wanted, mirroring the life style she was leaving behind at her parents’ home.

She wanted everything that I had provided for our lives together to remain solely with her. And that included Michael. She did not want me to be part of our son’s life. That was the rub. I was seeing a side of her that I had never seen before. I still don’t understand why she was so scheming and had so much venom in her blood. Were her friends egging her on to cause trouble?

The days passed by as we waited for a buyer to be found for the home. She appeared to be disinclined to sell and always put on a sour face when potential buyers were viewing the property. The days turned to months, and the months into years.

Living in this way and trying to hold down a job at the same time was not easy. My health began to suffer. I collapsed in the office twice in as many weeks. I got up and carried on with the job. I was never one to give in. My colleagues told me I needed to see a doctor. I made an appointment for the next day.

I had never seen my doctor so concerned. After taking my blood pressure and checking my pulse, he asked me questions about my life style and what problems I had. Without saying a word, he wrote out a prescription to help with my obvious stress, and insisted I stop work for at least a month.

My lodgings now became my prison. I diligently took the medication prescribed but found myself sitting alone staring out of the window into the garden for hours at a time. My mind was in turmoil and I needed to do something as this was the first time in my thirty-four year working life that I had ever been signed off by a doctor. I was used to working a normal 7 hour day. Now my life was at a standstill. I had pleaded with my doctor not to keep me from work. That was my only outlet for normality,

During my forced incarceration, I sought refuge in my computer. It was to become my lifeline. Music from my CD collection was my sole companion. Sport and news on my small television set were my only contacts with the outside world.

Surfing the net one day, I stumbled on a travel site about countries in the Far East. It was most interesting. There was a clip of people enjoying what seemed to be a very hassle free and happy existence. No worries, no stress, everyone appeared to be living a life without a care in the world. How I wished my life could be like that. Why can’t everyone live in that sort of harmony? Totally different from my situation: sitting in front of a computer, not knowing what the future was holding for me, nothing to look forward to. I surfed a bit more in my boredom. Then, somehow, I got onto a Thai social networking site and started chatting with some people. I started feeling less lonely, that someone out there was caring enough to talk to me.

A lady called Tasanee was on line. Obviously Thai, but I had no idea how you would pronounce her name. I laughed aloud when she wrote that she also had a nickname and was called Toy by her friends. We have nicknames in the West, of course. I had one in school but I’m not telling you what it was. Apparently, in Thailand everyone has a nickname and they use it in place of their given first name, which is really only used for official documents and on formal occasions.

That was my first contact with Toy and the first time I had laughed aloud for a very long time.

Even now, I find it difficult to express the affect that my first excursion into Thailand, albeit a virtual excursion over a computer connection, had on me. It was a very positive experience. My life was returning. Or was I clutching at straws?

Toy was a 39-year-old teacher from the Northern Thai province of Chiangmai. She had one daughter; I had one son. I did not know the detail at the time, but I sensed she had gone through a rough patch in her marriage prior to her husband’s premature death in a road accident. Being 10 years widowed, she had thrown herself into her teaching and bringing up her daughter, Kanya. From our exchange of messages over the internet, Toy came across as someone who genuinely wanted to settle down and enjoy once again living in a warm family environment. And at the time I didn’t think I was wrong in my judgment.

Family is very important to a Thai. The strong bonds within the family are not easily understood by Westerners who are more self-dependent and don’t feel family ties so strongly.

A year or so later, I found out that it was Kanya, who was now in high school and preparing for university, who had encouraged her mother to “find a new husband for yourself and a father for me. Let’s be a family together again.” It took me a little time to realise (and perhaps I still don’t fully understand) that a strong factor for Thai women in choosing a marriage partner is the security that it can bring to both themselves and their families.

Slowly, Toy began telling me about her married life with her late husband, Somchai. Her marriage to a Thai man had not been without its problems. She was going to be cautious about any future friendship and not make another mistake in her life. Realising that a life without Kanya as her companion was fast approaching, she saw the logic of what her daughter was saying. Kanya was becoming more self-confident and sooner or later would be making her own way in life. Toy had to start looking at her future.

She seemed intrigued in chatting to a foreigner over the internet. Thais have this perception that all farangs (white foreigners) are rich, not appreciating that high wages also come with high taxes and a high cost of living. English men particularly are seen as more honest and caring than Thai men – the Thai expression is poo dee angkrit. It has no direct translation but implies a feeling that Westerners are trustworthy and malleable. That they can be easily manipulated and persuaded to be fairly compliant with a wife’s demands. Very unlike how a woman is able to treat a Thai man.

It was with Kanya’s help that Toy had found this social networking site. Actually, it was more like a dating agency.

Toy and I chatted a lot over the next six months, getting to know each other better. Behind the scenes, I later found out, Kanya was vetting some of the contacts on her mother’s behalf. Sometimes, when Toy was busy, Kanya was replying to e-mails and instant messages herself. Including mine!

Perhaps I should have seen that as a possible red light and thought more deeply about it; but I did not.

Toy was six thousand miles away, but for me it was as if she was sitting right next to me. I thought that a certain chemistry was beginning to develop for both of us. And we had never actually met! We started to understand our different national cultures, though I was to learn a lot more later about how different Thais are from Westerners.

Why not come Thailand. We meet each other? I suppose that the question was bound to crop up at some point but I was still a bit wary. It was a long way to travel. Although I had travelled before, this was going to be my first long haul trip. I admit to some fear and trepidation. I thought of many reasons why I could not go at this time. The house had still not been sold. I had to consider how best to maintain my relationship with my son in the difficult circumstances that my ex-wife was creating. I wanted to meet Toy and Kanya, but how would I feel when the day came that I would have to return and resume my granny annex existence. My mind was not clear what I should do. Would there be difficulties in being in a relationship with someone from another country? I declined the offer. Many foreigners had not been able to adjust to life in the Tropics. I knew as much from my trawling on the internet and chatting online.

The Christmases after my divorce were like ordinary days of the week for me. Sitting on my own, allowing the contents of a bottle to block out the unhappiness I felt about the way my life was going. The two days in every year; which, for most of us, are fuelled with food, wine, and much laughter between family and friends, were for me days I would rather forget. I had cooked myself chicken and chips for my Christmas lunch. I enjoyed the meal but I was uneasy and not content with my life. The TV’s usual seasonal merriment failed to make any impression on me. Soon the programmes were a blur and I drifted into an alcohol-induced sleep.

My ex-wife promised me that I could see my son over the Christmas and New Year period but she changed her mind at the last minute. Now I could see him only on New Years Eve. She had a party to attend and did not want to miss it. I would be the baby-sitter.

I had been divorced for three years when Toy suggested for the third time that I visit her in Thailand. Having experienced the saddest days of my life, I accepted. I had to do something positive. Where else was my life heading?

I booked a ticket for 10 March. Her fortieth birthday was on the fourteenth and I was determined to celebrate the event with her and to repay, in some small measure, the consideration she had been showing me during our chatting and messaging. I had no idea how birthdays were celebrated in Thailand but I was resolved to make it a happy occasion for her.

But now, Thai Airways flight TG 911 bound for Bangkok was airborne and I was securely strapped into my seat.

I started thinking whether I was taking a big chance on this blind date. Would others have booked and paid for a long haul flight to meet someone they had never met face to face and had never spoken to? Had I completely thought this position through? Was the nastiness of my divorce clouding my rational thinking?

And that was when the voice inside me kept saying:

Get off this plane now.

Hyperlinks to Escape to Thailand. If control and click does not work on your browser, you can copy and [paste the link into your browser window.

APPLE  iTunes  Links to all titles   Escape to Thailand   Boxed Set includes A Thailand Diary and Escape to Thailand

AMAZON   Escape to Thailand   Boxed Set includes Thailand Take Two and Escape to Thailand


KOBO   Links to all titles

Escape to Thailand   Boxed Set includes A Thailand Diary and Escape to Thailand rsT5Aer110eRU4oUHsvyYA/page1.html?s=EdR1liczXkSsUMUU7b6YVw&r=4   Boxed Set includes Thailand Take Two and Escape to Thailand

BARNES & NOBLE   Links to all titles   Escape to Thailand   Boxed Set includes A Thailand Diary and Escape to Thailand   Boxed Set includes Thailand Take Two and Escape to Thailand

CREATESPACE   Escape to Thailand  Boxed Set includes Thailand Take Two and Escape to Thailand  Boxed Set includes A Thailand Diary and Escape to Thailand

Matt Owens Rees can be reached on and his blog is at

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Happy reading.


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