From Denver, With Love

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"American girls are just such a pain in the ass," Bobby says. "It's like every place you go is a lesbian bar. There's no difference between straight girls and lesbian girls; you wind up dancing alone because they're all dancing together."

Richard has made it clear that his tour is a marriage tour, not a sex tour. "If Bobby wants to make his trip a red-light tour, he's welcome to, but he can't red-light on my tour; he's got to go off it," Richard says. "And you can get that tour a lot cheaper than mine."

The women he'll be introducing tonight aren't prostitutes, he points out, and while any of the men can go over to the red-light district or bring a bar girl back to the hotel for as little as $50 a night, "I will warn the women that he's a player," he says.

But for now, he has some warnings for the men.

"You have to be real careful about your generosity, because in this culture they cater to the man," he tells the six men sitting at the bar, sodas and water before them. (Only Bobby drinks alcohol regularly.) He talks about how he loves eating food prepared by Thai street vendors, how the culture emphasizes hygiene and cleanliness, how he never gets sick. Once he even tried chicken butts on a stick, and they were gross -- all fat and bone. Nonetheless, Thai women eat them up, Richard notes, "so if you start feeding them caviar..."

It's all right to be gentlemen, to pull out chairs and open doors, he continues. But in Thailand, the women expect you to be dominant, to wear the pants while they wear the aprons. "If you make a doormat out of yourself, they will walk on you," he cautions.

At Richard's suggestion, the men have brought photo albums dating back to their baby pictures, which will show the women where they come from and help communications, since few of the women speak good English. And then there are the universal languages of love and money.

"In Thailand, love's not blind -- it's blind, deaf and dumb," Richard warns. "On the back of my card, it says, 'If she asks you for money, do not date her, do not marry her.'"

Richard is expecting about fifteen women on this first night. Sometimes women who are invited don't show, and sometimes uninvited women do. In Bangkok, Western faces are fairly common, and foreigners -- farangs in Thai -- aren't as hot as they are in other parts of the country. That's why Richard includes two more stops on his ten-day tours.

One of the first women on the scene is thirty-year-old Wan. But she's not available; she met a postal worker from Texas on one of Richard's previous tours, and she thinks their future looks bright. Wan says she's given up on Thai men because they are unfaithful. They are "butterflies," going from flower to flower.

Da, who came with Wan, lost her Thai man when she lost her job. Now she wants a farang because they like smart women, whereas intelligence intimidates Thai men, she says. Also, Da has dark skin, and she says Thai men prefer women who look Chinese.

Women like Annie.

Twenty-three-year-old Annie, who speaks English well and serves as the evening's translator, is popular with the American men, too. She has a bachelor's degree from a Thai university and works for Target as an executive assistant, coordinating a team of twenty people. She likes working for a Western company and wants a Western man, she says, because Thai men are infamous for cheating on their women.

Annie has brought her younger sister along. She's hoping to get her to dump her Thai boyfriend and go for a farang. But the sister speaks no English.

Annie says she knows that most Westerners who visit Thailand are just after sex. But she trusts the men who tour with Richard and went to dinner with one member of an earlier tour. While she's skeptical about the odds of falling in love in just a few days, she's also open to the idea of moving halfway around the world to let a relationship grow. Although Western men have asked Annie to come home with them before, she's always passed. "If the guy's not right to me, I don't want to go with him," Annie says. "That's why it takes a long time to get the right guy for me. He could be a good husband, and a good dad for my children."

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Luke Turf

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