This was a book waiting to be written, but if you're
looking for a raunchy sex tale about Bangkok's
red-light districts, try the Internet -- it's full of
sites with much more graphic descriptions, even
What Dave Walker and Richard S. Ehrlich have done is
approach a social fact of life from a different angle,
a very human angle.
"Hello My Big Honey!" is a sociological study dealing
with a section of society that can be found in just
about every country in the world, their hopes, their
fears, their dreams and above all, their interaction
and deeper involvement with their clients, the farang
As Dave Walker explains in his 10-page preface, the
germ of an idea was born in the bars of Patpong Road
in Bangkok...True, the days of the Vietnam War were
over, but the reputation that Bangkok had gained as a
"wide-open town" had spread near and far. Where there
had been GIs, now it was oil workers and other
professional expatriates hunting a living in Southeast
The letters followed, more than a reliving of stolen
moments of physical passion, these were letters of
hopes, dreams and longings to return...
To some it might seem the craziest of places to find
love, a road full of hustling, neon lights, prowling
transvestites and ear-shattering music. Lust yes, but
real love surely no. Yet whether or not it's the wrong
place to be looking for lasting commitment, there are
those foreigners who have found their heart's desires
in a love that's been reciprocated.
This is something that Richard Ehrlich takes up in his
10-page introduction. It's "a surreal night-time
world" in which the bar girls live, one in which
"men's fantasies, desperation, emotions and hormones"
all "collide" with the "sleaze, partying" and highly
"intensive care", plus of course, "cash". Most times
it's a purely physical interaction that lasts no
longer than rising from the crumpled sheets, but
As Richard points out though, "the odds" are really
stacked "against" it [love]. "Dancing on her tiny
stage", a girl may try and shut out the leering faces
while trying to pick out just one where there is a
deeper feeling she believes she can read. Other girls
may become outright exhibitionists playing to the
crowd, but they too are searching for a soul mate. The
"competition" is fierce, for the girls have only one
thing on their mind -- grab a man. Their reasons
differ, some so spaced out on heroin or amphetamines
that their only worry is where they can find the money
for their next fix, while the professional plasticine
jobs with their fake smiles of enduring love are
mentally counting baht as they move around weighing up
the potential catch. With so many girls and so many
bars, to make the right connection can be tough...
No wonder the poor old farang is confused, for it
destroys all his Western conceptions of "normal"
life...It is easy to become deluded and believe that
they are really in love, but what about the girl. Does
she really love me? Does she really care that much
about me? If she does, then why does she always want
money? I know she has to live, but surely she can earn
money in some other job.
If it's a quandary he finds himself in while in
Bangkok, at least the ministrations of his newfound
love provide some temporary relief. It's when he's
back home that the whole meaning of this relationship
begins to gnaw on his mind...
It is into this strange melting pot of fantasy and
reality that Dave Walker and Richard S. Ehrlich have
delved, fishing out a selection of 71 letters from
foreign men all around the world, as well as
interviewing a dozen bargirls and three bar owners,
one English, one American and one Thai.
It may seem a massive invasion of privacy to read
someone else's letters, for there are only two places
a person can never hide -- in bed and in their
letters. Yet the only people able to tell the true
story of life on Patpong Road are the bargirls
themselves and it is story that merits being told.
Be warned however, this is a journey that is not for
the faint-hearted...The American serviceman on his way
to Saudi Arabia prior to the Gulf War desperately
trying to persuade his teenage Thai girlfriend that he
really wants to settle down and marry her, is one
letter that stands out not only for its length but
also the intensity of feelings expressed.
Then of course there are the girls, who provide
another cross-section. There's the consummate
professional, all business, who is busy saving to buy
a house -- no time for romance in her life one
suspects. Or the girl whose
seen it all, from being a barmaid right down to being
a mama-san today.
Then there's the would-be suicide, who has tried once
and hopes she can stave off the desperation to try
again. Yet perhaps more typical is the girl who lives
in cramped squalor with her son, mother, two younger
children, her sister and her boyfriend and another
"Hello My Big Honey!" doesn't delve into the morality
of prostitution, nor was that its intention...
There is even one Thai girl who has traveled the world
as an anti-AIDS campaigner, but admits that if
desperate for money she would quite willingly have