I was working in Khorat, a town in the Issan region of Thailand in 2006 when I met Ted. I had just rented a room in an apartment block where Ted was living. I was surprised to find someone like Ted in a poor, unfashionable part of Thailand.
Three weeks earlier Ted had separated from his Thai wife. He’d lost everything and didn’t have enough for an airfare home. There was no one at home who could bail him out and he was living on borrowed money.
Ted seemed to be quite overwhelmed by his situation. But despite his circumstances, he was good company and a great story teller. What’s more, his story challenged things I thought I knew.
I’d been to Thailand before and seen foreign men with younger, attractive Thai girlfriends. I had always assumed it was simply a form of prostitution where the men had the upper hand because they were relatively rich.
But Ted’s story was one of exploitation where the tables had been turned. What’s more, it seemed that his story was not uncommon in that part of the world.
I began interviewing Ted on camera about his relationship with Tip. However, at the same time, things were still happening quickly for him, as he tried to stave off destitution by various means. So the film became comprised of both retrospective and unfolding events.
A few months later, I went with Ted to Tip’s village, Krasang. He was at the point of being unable to feed himself and hoped that Tip would give him back some money.
We also met some of the many other foreign men living in Krasang who had married local women that they met in bars at Bangkok and Pattaya. It was great to hear both men and women’s points of view.
We were also lucky enough to meet Mint, who was Tip’s best friend. Although they came from neighbouring villages, Tip and Mint first met while working at a bar in Bangkok.
Mint is a charismatic and forthright person. Although it made the edit difficult, we felt we needed to include her story to illustrate the desperation that drives the women. We couldn’t get that from Tip anymore, because by the time we met her, she had already benefitted from her marriage with Ted.
Mint also introduced us to Yahmo, a local female deity who became a minor character in the film. Yahmo’s statue and shrine stood in the town square. Along with other local Issan women, Tip and Mint prayed to Yahmo, especially for help in finding a good man to marry.
The Yahmo legend was a great metaphor for Ted’s story. It also said much about our characters, that they esteemed a ferocious warrior woman who used sexual charms to turn the tables on men.
I am deeply grateful to Screen Australia, who made the film financially possible. I am particularly grateful for the support, experience and patience of our long-suffering project officer Claire Jager.
We have remained friends with Ted, Tip and Mint since the film was shot. I am happy to report that after a few very rough years, Ted is now leading a successful and single life in his native Wales.