From Denver, With Love

For American men tired of American women, Richard Beals knows how to Thai the knot.

When he was 26, though, Richard got a woman pregnant -- and he wasn't in love with her. The woman tried to hide the pregnancy as punishment, he says, and after the child was born, she kept Richard away from his daughter.

In 1975, Richard moved to Colorado, a place he'd fallen in love with on a trip when he was eighteen. His first job was at a Beau Jo's Pizza, and then he sold cars while going to real-estate school. The real-estate business kept him interested for almost eight years, and then he moved on to network marketing. Through his assorted careers, he continued to race and sell radio-controlled boats.

In 1995, Richard started playing professional poker. He made money, but not millions. Still, he liked the odds of poker better than the odds of American marriage. He saw that marriage had a 50 percent chance of failure, and with men losing half of everything they earned to divorce, the stakes were way too high. Richard vowed to stay single forever.

 
 
We are the world: Seow and Richard Beals talk about 
the U.S. with Thai schoolchildren.
We are the world: Seow and Richard Beals talk about the U.S. with Thai schoolchildren.

Then Seow walked into the Black Hawk casino where he was playing in September 1999.

Seow is of Chinese descent but was born in Malaysia. She was almost 25 when her 59-year-old American boyfriend was laid off by a computer company. She moved with him to his ranch in Montana in 1996. He was married, but afraid to divorce his wife because he could lose everything.

When Seow's boyfriend died, his brother agreed to put her up in his Nederland home, and she scored a job at a Chinese restaurant in Boulder.

A cook and a waiter there were both addicted to Texas Hold 'Em. They bought a tip book but couldn't read English, so they had Seow translate. Then they took her to a casino.

Seow decided to play. When she sat down at the poker table, several of the players, a couple of the dealers and the pit boss were all watching her. "But for whatever reason, she liked me," Richard remembers.

He asked Seow if she'd like to go on a motorcycle ride.

"Is it a big one?" she asked.

"Yeah," Richard said. "It's bigger than a Harley."

"I thought Harleys were the biggest motorcycle in the world," Seow countered.

"No, this one's bigger," Richard assured her.

Soon after, Richard picked Seow up at the restaurant during her lunch break, and the two drove up the canyon to the Pioneer Inn, where Seow had a beer and he had a Coke. Richard couldn't believe how Seow saw American women in the same light as he did -- overvalued -- while the men were undervalued.

Cruising down from Nederland, Richard realized that he wanted to be exclusive with Seow. She proposed marriage to him a few months later, and they were wed on January 6, 2000, in Las Vegas.

Richard got back into the car business, buying and selling wholesale with Seow's assistance. More than a decade before, he'd gotten to know his daughter back in Indiana, and he didn't plan to have another child now. Seow was taking birth-control pills that a friend at the Chinese restaurant had given her when she was trying to get pregnant. Instead, it was Seow who gave birth, to a girl named Venus.

Richard and Seow decided to take a family trip to Malaysia. Seeing how happy they were, two of Richard's friends asked if Richard could help them find wives as loyal, loving, serving and caring. Unfortunately, no one in Malaysia struck either Seow or Richard as good wife material.

On the way back home, Richard decided to check out some beach property in Thailand as a retirement possibility. But in the airport alone, he saw a half-dozen women who might work out for his friends.

Women in Thailand know all about sex tours, and they fear sex trafficking; as a bald, middle-aged white man, Richard might as well have had "sex tourist" tattooed on his forehead. But mixed baby Venus worked like a magnet with Thai women, many of whom asked Richard and Seow to find them a Western husband. Thai men were butterflies, they said.

Richard started thinking about all of the American men he knew who'd been destroyed by divorce, and he started Thailand Romance Tours in July 2003. "It's a mutual rescue mission," he says.

The first four tours consisted of men from Colorado and Wyoming, but word of mouth and the Internet soon helped recruit clients from across the country, as well as a few civilian employees in Iraq. Seow was skeptical of the business at first, but she's finally starting to feel the magic of matchmaking.

Of the 41 men that Richard and Seow took to Thailand before this twelfth tour, sixteen got married. Although one is now separated from his wife, Richard says he was against that marriage from the start. According to him, nine men are awaiting their bride's arrival in the States. Eleven are not yet engaged but are still talking with women they met on the tour. Some have returned to Thailand to visit their sweethearts.

Just four of the men have given up on the Thai bride idea.

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