Happy Sabaii Sabaii Happy by Peter Nolan Smith

In 1972 Bhutan’s King Jigme Singye Wangchuck attempted to reform his country’s feudal economy on a Buddhist spiritual level rather than a capitalistic model. To best judge his efforts the king created a Gross Domestic Happiness Index based on life satisfaction, life expectancy at birth, and ecological footprint per capita. The Happy Planet Index placed the Pacific nation of Vanuata at the top of the list and Zimbabwe understandably was dead last in 178th place.

Thailand ranked 38 in the 2006 Happiness Survey before coups, yellow shirts, red shirts, shooting in the streets of Bangkok, and burning luxury mall. four years later the ranking is not lower, but higher.

# 32.


How that happen?

Maybe Thailand ‘mai mi sanuk’ or not have fun, but they have about forty-three definitions for smiles much like the Eskimos have thwenty-three words for snow. The present smile of Thailand is known as sao sokh yim or unhappy smile, by which a mask of chagrin hides the basic dissatisfaction of the nation’s present state.

7/11s do not answer all our needs.

Although a little beer drinking never hurts.

Several years ago I stopped at the Janet Bar on Soi Excite. It was past midnight. Twelve ladies sat on the stool. Two westerners were at the bar. Natalee joined me for a drinking. She was typically looking very sexy, but complained, “Mai mi kak.”

“It’s low season. There aren’t customers anywhere.” Rainy season offered lean pickings for the bargirls.

“No good.” Her eyes begged me to bar-fine her.

“Mai mi taeng.” I lied about my finances.

“I know you have money. I smell it. 1000 baht. All night. I do everything.”

Kor-thot,” I apologized, for a night with Natalee required Olympic training. “I not strong man.”

“No worry, I be nim noon with you. All night. You me.”

Natalee’s gentleness was like hooking up with a jaguar in heat.

“Sorry, I can’t.”

“Because you have tee-lat?”

“Yes.” I was faithful to Mam, the thinnest woman on Soi 6. She wasn’t faithful to me, but one day she would be to our mutual happiness.

“Wah.” She faked crying and went to eat Chinese chicken feet with the other idle girls.

The nearest westerner smiled sadly and said with an East End accent, “You speak Thai good. How long have you been here?”

“Four years straight.” My first arrival in Thailand dated back to 1991.

I was only 39.

A mere youth.

So innocent.

I never thought I would live here, but neither did I think GW Bush would win a second term.

“I’ve been here two years.” The thirtyish farang was better dressed than most of the beer slobs of Pattaya. “I married a girl and lived up-country the last year.”

“How’d that working out?” I immediately regretted the question.

“I left her a week ago,” Alan introduced himself and signaled the bartender for two beers. “She is as good as gold, but her family was stitching me up for money. Her step-father is an ex-cop and drinks whiskey all day. The old man wanted 50,000 baht and I told him no, so her mother took all the gold I brought my wife for her wedding.”

“I’ve heard this story before.” 90% of fathers of the bargirls are old rice farmers, for whom happiness is a bag of tobacco and a bottle of lao khao every day, but some are plain old criminals, who think farangs are made for a taking.

“I don’t doubt it. That started the end. The old man called me a cheap farang in my own house.” Alan sounded more disappointed than mad.

“That doesn’t sound gra-dook kat man to me.”

“No, I’m not cheap, but the worst was that my wife didn’t back me up.”

“Supporting you would go against the grain. Thai women place their mother first, father second, then the rest of the family, the village, every other Thai before you.” I had experienced this first-hand with all my girlfriends here. “Don’t take it personal. Thais are natural zenotropes. They hate everyone else.”

“So I found out. One night the old man came to house with a gun. He wanted money to visit his mistress. I told him I was leaving and asked my wife to come along. She said no, so now I’m here.” He was looking for advice. Advice he wouldn’t follow, because he’s still in love. “My girl ain’t so pretty, she’s 31, but we have sex twice a day.”

“Sex has nothing to do with love.” Although spending a night with Natalee might come close. “Best to cut your losses. You’re from the East End. You’re not a square. Don’t let a rice farmer sucker you.”

“I don’t know.” Weakness of the heart was blood in the water to a Isaan grifter.

“You have kids with this angel?”


“Then you’re still young and make another shot at love.”

“I’ve been married before.” These failures rankled him. “I wanted this to work out.”

“Sorry.” I ordered another round, as Alan went to the WC.

Natalee came over to massage my neck.

“You still not want to go home with me?”

“I want, but like I said before have no money.”

“What about your friend?”

“He have broke heart.”

“Stupid farang.”

She frowned and returned to the other menless women.

Alan’s happiness index had dropped below the UK average. Mine was someplace near Peru, which is #3, because beer makes me happy as does hearing someone having it worse than me.

“So you think you’ll go back to your wife?”

“It’s a long shot.”

Just be careful. remember her old man has a gun.”

“How can I forget?”

We changed the subject and drank two more beers. It was 2am when I wished Alan luck and left for home.

Natalee blew a kiss. Alan stopped to speak with her. She smiled with enthusiasm. There wasn’t another man in sight.

I arrived back to an almost empty house. My wife has been up-country a long time. She wasn’t coming back. Thankfully my little dog was happy to see me, but then dogs are the only animal who loves you more than themselves.


You should see Champoo’s tail wag.

Now that’s happy.

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