Category Archives: Thoughts from the expats corner

Jack Corbett has now been living full time in Thailand as an expat. This category encompasses a wide range of thoughts and subjects from the perspective of being in a strange land thousands of miles from the United States where the culture oftentimes seems to be 180 degrees apart from the values and beliefs of the West.

Outsourcing, Thai Style

Yesterday I went to a new construction site in Pattaya. A new condo building is being built here, and it’s due for completion six months from now. Except for the construction foreman the laborers are from Cambodia and Burma. The owner of the company is Thai. I’ve been told he owns a Ferrari and a Mercedes. I asked someone in the know, “Are all these workers illegals? remembering an American bar owner friend of mine who was once arrested by the police for talking to a customer in the bar he owned. “No,” my contact replied, “They are all legal. The company hiring them is too large and well established to be hiring Cambodian and Burmese illegals.” Which I interpreted to mean that the owner had probably been buying work permits at hugely discounted prices from a government employee whose palms he had been greasing.

From my observations of construction work going on in my neighborhood, I have noticed that most of the workers do not look or carry themselves as Thai. As for my own condo building, I used to visit the construction site at least twice a week when I’d wander from floor to floor to compare the different types of units while observing the progress that had been made. On reflection, knowing what I know now, the workers on the general construction crew did not appear to be Thai.

I’ve been told that Thais do not like working construction jobs because the work is too hard. I never believed that. There’s just too many Thais going from bar to bar at night trying to sell DVD movies to the customers, flowers, Polaroid pictures and what have you. The real answer is, the men who make the wheels turn in this country love their Ferraris and Mercedes too much. So I asked my girlfriend about it, and she told me the Burmese and Cambodian construction workers were getting around 4500 baht a month. This is in a country where our own cleaning women in my condo building are getting between 6000 and 7000 baht so with the baht presently at a rate of exchange of 1 American dollar to thirty baht this means that cleaning women are getting $200 a month while Cambodians and Burmese doing construction work are getting just $150 a month.

Well, I’ve been back to the villages upcountry to see how the people live in Issan, and I’ve met a lot of Thai men who are unemployed or who are just barely eking out an existence doing a little of this or that. I’ve also met a lot of bar girls who will stay with a man they really don’t like for as little as $250 a month. They do it because their brothers and sisters don’t have jobs and because they only have sixth grade educations and can’t find anything for themselves. So do I believe that Thai people are too lazy to want to work construction jobs? No I do not. I think the sentence is incomplete when it reads, “Thai people do not want to work in the dirty, sweaty and dangerous conditions construction work entails,” to “Thai people do not want to risk their lives working for just 4500 baht in such conditions.”

Why two editions of “Death on the Wild Side”?

Death on the Wild Side novel
I bought the ship for $60.00 in Hanoi. One exactly like it costs $1000 in Thailand. The new 2nd edition of Death on the Wild Side is as stunning to look at as the ship, but then again I'm prejudiced.


In 1995 I published the 1st edition of Death on the Wild Side.   Back in those days I could be found in the strip clubs in the Saint Louis Metro East three times a week. Farming 560 acres by myself while writing the novel,  I was very busy back then and today I am simply amazed that I could accomplish it all.  Being at times a bit of a braggart and very much a showoff, back in the clubs I kept telling everyone, “Yes, I am writing a novel and I will have it published soon”, and true to my word, I did.  I was using film cameras back in those days so when I got around to putting the pictures together for the book I was dependent on the quality of my cameras, and how good a job others could do processing the film and getting the pictures print ready.  Although I typeset the entire book myself using my Word perfect Word processor I looked over twenty-four different printing companies to see which one could do the best job at the best price. I chose Gilliand Printing Company to do the job and I ordered a large enough number of books so that I could buy in at a low enough cost to hopefully make some money out of it. Gilliand produced the novel’s covers based on my initial specifications. With the book finished at last, it was time to decide how to sell it. Only then did I begin to learn the harsh truths of what I was up against. First off, a self published author such as myself could expect low profit margins. Even worse, the prospect of facing bookstores and other outlets that paid their bills 60 days or even later came as a shock and an even greater shock was the realization that oftentimes the author–publisher would not be paid at all. The next harsh reality to be faced was the issue of damaged books and that I’d likely be responsible for any books one of my resellers claimed got damaged in his store. This whole thing was starting to look like a very bad deal for me, and no fun at all. But I learned about these self publishing harsh realities in how to do books after it was already too late–after that truck dropped off a few pallets of books at my front door. Numerous excuses soon arose for my avoiding the plunge into such self publishing unpleasantness as cold calling book stores or acting as my own collection agency. I had to harvest corn, plant soybeans, supercharge my Miata sports car, etc. Then I discovered the internet and said to myself…”Now that’s the way I need to go out and sell books.”

But I created a monster. It was a  monster because what I wound up creating took me completely away from my original purpose of getting on the internet in the first place, which was to sell books.  Right off, I got heavily involved with digital photography because I could easily put whatever pictures I’d take straight up on the internet.  And because I was already going to strip clubs on a regular basis I found that I had gotten very popular with strippers in the Saint Louis Metro East as well as with certain club managers and owners.  The digital photography ended up paying huge dividends and to make a long story short, eventually I found myself writing two articles a month for adult magazines while shooting pictures in strip clubs all over the United States.  Oftentimes I’d be having my hotels paid for while receiving several hundred dollars a night to hang out with the kind of people I always wanted to hang out with in the first place.

I started to get confused about what I was all about.  I was already Jack Corbett, which wasn’t my real name.  And although I had started out as a writer by writing “Death on the Wild Side”, people had started calling me “the photographer.”  So was I a photographer or was I a writer?  For Xtreme Magazine I did both, but which was I really best at?  And I was doing my own web site work as well.  I started to think of myself as a jack of all trades and a master of none.  I wasn’t making a living doing photography.  Most of my money was coming in from the farm and when people would offer to pay me money for shooting weddings and other events I had no interest in, Id simply tell them, “No way.”  Once in awhile people would ask me to shoot porn and once again, I’d tell them, “I’m not into it and I’m not doing it.”  By this time I was starting to shoot a little video and my stripper friends and I started to concoct some really off the wall stuff while enjoying ourselves to the hilt.  I met my real Waterloo when my editor from Xtreme Magazine asked me to do a cartoon to go with one of my Dick Fitswell articles that was about to be placed in the magazine, and I told Jeremy,  “Look, I can take excellent pictures, and I can write well enough and I can do web site work, but there’s one thing I can’t do–I just can’t draw.”  Jeremy asked me to try anyway so I worked up a cartoon and after he got it from me he replied, “You sure were right, Jack.  You really can’t draw.”

Eventually I ended up moving to Thailand and started playing around with an idea I had of writing a few short stories about the people I was meeting here.  One of my German friends caught me in the act and when he found out I was writing about a German builder I was calling “Herman the German” he started laughing his ass off, and from then on he kept asking me about how I was faring with Herman the German and the Fun House.  The man kept goading me on, so eventually I turned my little project into the novel that became, Welcome to the Fun House.  It was while writing Welcome to the Fun House that I really started to investigate “Print by Demand Publishing” where I could turn out just one or two or for that matter two hundred books at a time with virtually no up front costs to myself.  At this time another one of my German friends, Ludwig Johner, a retired architect, was doing oil painting upstairs while taking care of his ninety year old mother who was afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.  I felt Ludwig was truly an excellent artist with a really whacked out way of looking at life through his paintings and that’s when I decided that the front cover design for “Welcome to the Fun House” should be based on one of his paintings.  I wound up producing the entire design of the back cover from scratch by myself.

When my first proof copies came in I was astonished at how good the book looked.  To my eyes it looked far more attractive than the usual fare one finds in most bookstores.  I had learned something after all from playing around with graphics arts programs such as Photoshop doing promo for strippers and doing my web site work.  And that is when I vowed to turn out a new edition of Death on the Wild Side.  Everything had just turned out so well with Welcome to the Fun House  from the quality of the paper, the overall appearance of the book and the attractiveness of the text inside the book, but most  of all it was the front and rear covers that made the book exceed my expectations.

The first big decision I had to make about the coming 2nd edition of Death on the Wild Side was who was going to be my cover girl.   I had thousands of pictures to choose from that I had taken in strip clubs from Las Vegas, the Saint Louis Metro East. Indiana, and Texas, all the way over to the East Coast in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts and I had scores of entertainers to choose from.  I asked myself, “out of all those entertainers, which girl most consistently photographed the best?   In my heart, I knew who the girl would be before I even delved into all those pictures so it didn’t take long out of those thousands of pictures for the perfect shot to reveal itself.

When I received my two proof copies from Amazon I was stunned.  The book was simply gorgeous.  My Thai girlfriend immediately said, “I want one.  That one is my copy,” she said while pointing at one of the two books.  She still keeps it close to her bedside.

It is as close to perfection as I could make it.  As for its ultimate success or failure in the marketplace, only time will tell.  After all, I might not be really all that terrific as an author.   Who knows.  Even so, if it were in a bookstore right now competing for space against all its competition, I am confident it would be crying out, “Look at me.  Look at me.  See how pretty I am.”

Thoughts from the Exercise Room

The exercise room is at the Pattaya Long Beach Hotel, which is just forty meters from our condo.  It’s a four star hotel, and it’s wholly Thai owned and operated.  But in recent years, most of the hotel guests have become Russians.  Our condo has an agreement with the Long Beach that all our residents can use the Long Beach swimming pools, its towel service, saunas, and beach chairs free of charge.   Of course it’s not free.  We condo owners have to pay 180,000 baht a year for ten yearly passes which comes to $6000 a year and this comes out of our condo maintenance fees.  But considering there are 55 units in our building this comes to $109.00 per year or just $9.00 a month which is  probably hardly enough to pay the Long Beach back for providing laundry service for all the towels we use.  Whichever way you slice it, it’s one helluva deal, and I’m going to credit it to the German builder we bought our condos from.  The head German is still our fearless leader who’s chairman of our condo committee. But the subject isn’t about Germans and how clever they are, it’s about the Russian women I often encounter in the exercise room

As a people it is very difficult to like the Russians.  They’ve nearly taken over Pattaya by now and there’s more of them coming each year.   Most of them are unwilling to learn a single word of Thai and their English skills are non-existent.  They are rude, and they are arrogant, without having any sound reasons for such arrogance because most of them we meet are not the sharpest pencils in the world.  And they are all over the place now, like cockroaches clogging up the streets and shopping centers.  Now don’t get me wrong, there’s some good ones among them.  There always are no matter what nationality one is discovering.  But let me put this in perspective.   I have a Russian condo owner living in the unit above mine.  He’s a big bear of a man from the Black Sea area of Russia.  He’s put his children in the best schools here and his wife has the nicest eyes.  Most Russians are the opposite having hard eyes as unfriendly as the North Sea.  But not this man and his wife, nor his children.  A few days ago I ran into him in our condo lobby where he started telling me how he and his wife were going back to Koh Chang which is Thailand’s second largest island.  “Koh Chang very good,” he tells me.  “There are no Russians.”   John despises the Russians we have around here, but he tells me the Russians from back home, from his Black Sea area are very good.  I digress, however.  What I need to get back to are the Russian women exercising in the exercise room.

Three hours from now, Raccoon and I will go back to the Long Beach Hotel  to exercise.  We spend forty-five minutes in the exercise room.  I will do some weight exercises to repair the damage I suffered when I broke my clavicle in the motorcycle accident and thirty minutes on the treadmill and elliptical machine.  Two days ago there was a young Russian woman exercising on the treadmill next to me.  She would stay on that machine for a long time, then she’d get off and go do something else and then she’d return several minutes later to resume her exercise.  She was on that treadmill when I started to do my weight exercises and she was still on it when Raccoon and I were leaving to go back to the condo.

That’s just it.  Although there’s a lot of fat Russian women around, there’s still a sizeable minority who take their exercise seriously.  I’ve even seen middle aged Russian women stay on the treadmill or  the elliptical machine for over an hour.  And the ones who I see exercising a lot have the bodies to show for all that effort.  The Russian men like to come into the exercise room even more than the women.  But from what I can tell most of them are not into the aerobic exercise one can get on the treadmill or elliptical machines.  They are far more interested in seeing how much weight they can put up.  I now see why the Russians were always so tough in the Olympics.  I used to think it was the Communist machine that forced all their athletes to do it.  Now I know differently.  The Russians always were particularly strong in such events as the javelin and throwing the discus, shot putting, weight lifting,, and other sports that focused on great strength.  And both men and women athletes were extremely competitive when it came to gymnastics, ballet and ice skating.

What I am seeing are women who like to work out for reasons other than their being on the Olympic team or because the Utopian Communist State is asking them to do it for the glory of Lenin.  I always thought that running four miles was a pretty good workout, and that it was enough to keep me fit and trim.  I hate the treadmill but for some reason I like the elliptical machines which I feel give the entire body a tremendous workout. I believe thirty to thirty-five minutes on the elliptical is equivalent of running four to five miles, but in many ways it’s even better because the arms and shoulders are getting a good workout along with the legs.  But here I’m seeing Russian women working out for even more extensive periods.  And you will hardly ever see Thai women exercising for more than fifteen minutes at a time.  As for the English, well, I’ve never caught a British woman working out yet in that exercise room.  Americans?  There are getting to be few Americans left in Thailand.  But back in the states you will never see American women work out like some of these Russian women do unless they are on the U.S. ski team.

To crystalize all of this into a single person, I will bring up Anna.   Anna is a Russian woman who lives in one of the condos on the first floor.  She has something like three other Russian women living with her.  Anna sells condos and whoever has employed her has apparently given her a company car.  Anna likes to get up early in the morning when she starts out her day swimming laps in our condo pool.  One morning while shaving I noticed that someone was swimming out in our condo pool in the middle of a driving rain storm.  And I do mean, “rain storm” because it was raining so hard that the street in front of my condo had started to flood.  I thought to myself, “That has gotta be Anna.  Most of the people in this condo aren’t up this early and I can’t think of anyone who’s demented enough to be swimming in the middle of all that rain.”  I was right; it was Anna.

But Anna isn’t crazy.  Rarely do I ever see lightning when I watch it rain.  The water in the pool was almost bathtub temperature that morning Anna was swimming in the rain.  And when you think about it, why shouldn’t she be swimming with all that water coming down on her?  She’s wet anyway.  And the rain drops aren’t all that cold.  Not around here.  I don’t even have to ask Anna why she was exercising in the rain.  She does it because it makes her feel like she’s always at the top of her game.  Her mind is sharper because of it.  And she’s probably too busy with her work to be able to be too choosy about what time she can get her exercise in.  One thing I can be certain of and that’s Anna’s got a beautiful firm little body, the kind of body to die for.  You get to see that here, every day in fact, because so many Thai women have such beautiful figures to start with.  But you also get to see an appreciable number of white women who have great shapes here in Pattaya but they aren’t American, and they aren’t from Western Europe either.

Welcome to the Fun House

I am calling this place,, the Fun House.  First because “Welcome to the Fun House” is the title of the second novel, the one I recently finished.  The second reason is because this the place I’m living in–the Fun House which is in Pattaya Thailand which goes by several different names.  One of them is “A Disneyland for Adults.”  Another is Sin City.  Now most of the guys who own condos in my building come from all over the world.  There’s over a half a dozen Germans, only three Americans including myself, unless there’s a couple of recluses in Hibernation.  A Canadian, possibly half a dozen Brits, several Australians, a pair of Kiwis from New Zealand, one Norwegian, one Finn, a Russian couple above me, and so on.  Most of them are older men such as myself who are trying to inject as much excitement as possible into the golden years.

It’s warm here although it’s not nearly as hot as some people might think..  The average winter temperature and do keep in mind that winter lasts all of three weeks, is just 8 degrees colder than the average summer temperature  We can ride our motorbikes all year long which is so much fun except for the streets being so deadly.  The police here are really the opposite of what American police try to do which is to serve and protect.  Here, it’s let people do everything they want to do no matter how unsafe or unsound it is because the police are alright with that so long as they are getting as much tea money as they can along the way.

No one knows how many bars are here.  Some say it’s over 2000 while others put the figure at 4000.   There’s over 100 go-go bars in town, which are a lot like American strip clubs.  But whereas a lap dance in the U.S. costs $20.00 and up for just a 3 minute song, here you can take a girl out of the go go bar for $18.00 and after that it’s between you and the girl although the last time I was into that scene I was giving the girls $30.00.  But that’s just the way it is here where everything is for sale and everything has its price.  I’ve had the same girlfriend for over 2 1/2 years so now my life has become a model of respectability.   She is thirty-eight years younger than me.

My friend Ross and I agree  that the Thai women are the best looking women in the world and we should know because we get to see all kinds.  We live n Disneyland where people come in from all over the world.  The place has gotten to be flooded with Russians by now and there’s a lot of shapely Russian women here, but most are with their husbands or boyfriends and nearly all of them have hardened looks in their eyes.  And if anyone likes Chinese or Korean women, when you stack them up against the Thai women the Thais have them beat by a mile.  Ross keeps telling me he’d hate to be living anywhere else.  Anyway, there’s a huge assortment of beautiful women to choose from here so between having warm summer days all year round and getting to ride motorcycles everyday, having between 2000 and 4000 bars, over 100 strip clubs and getting to actually go out with the most beautiful women in the world even if you are starting to get old and crusty like me–this isn’t really happening- I cannot be living around here, but I am and that’s why I’m calling this place the Fun House.