From Denver, With Love

Page 8 of 14

After they meet their future bride, she says, they can send $200 -- but no more -- to the woman's parents once a month. Children are the social-security system in Asia, she explains, and it's all right to keep that tradition going. It's even expected. Later, after the woman has proven her love is genuine, they can be more generous. If they have children together, it'll only make that bond stronger.

"If you let her step over you, why you come to Thailand for a wife?" Seow asks the men.

"Really, what Richard want, what he is about, is waking you up, making you be the boss," she says. "Strength is what they're looking for. They don't care about your looks, they don't care about your age. They want to be secure with you."

Seow suggests they take it slow, moving from town to town and woman to woman until they find the right one. The more time a man spends with a woman, the more he'll know if it's a good match.

"You tell them when you want to be there and when you want to leave," she says. "You need to be a strong guy. Women like stronger guys, emotionally and mentally, not necessarily physically." Order cheap stuff off the menu for her even if you can afford more expensive dishes, she adds. It's okay to piss them off.

And if a man does propose marriage, he should insist on a prenuptial agreement. "Don't kiss ass," Seow concludes.

"I probably fucked it up really bad, huh?" Lee asks Seow.

"Yeah," she replies.

Udon Thani is like the second wave of the tsunami, Richard tells the men. It's the big one.

The hotel here is nicer. Little tables and chairs are scattered across the marble floor, and there are pink roses everywhere. Thirty-four women filter in and out of this lobby the first night. Thirty-four not including Marsha and Cindy.

Cindy doesn't stand out too much, but Marsha's breasts are barreling out of her low-cut black cocktail dress. A few men ask Richard about her. He tells them they're too far away to see Marsha's Adam's apple and her big hands, too far away to hear her deep voice. While Cindy is now officially a woman, Marsha has yet to have the final surgery to seal the deal. This is the first time that a lady-boy has shown up on one of Richard's tours, asking to be a potential bride. Richard doesn't want to be rude, so he takes their pictures and asks them to fill out the application/profile, knowing all along that Marsha and Cindy will never be posted on his site, never be asked to come meet the men.

Thirty-four women are almost too many, the men agree.

Welcome to Udon Thani, Richard tells them.

Sammy didn't meet anyone he liked too much in Bangkok, but a 28-year-old from Laos now catches his eye. Richard introduces them. Her name is Viant, she has two young children, and she speaks no English. Through an interpreter, Viant tells Sammy that she left her Thai husband because he cheated on her. Butterfly.

Within minutes, Sammy asks Richard if it would be more complicated to bring Viant to the U.S. because she is from Laos.

Sammy and Viant are holding hands. Sammy is crazy about her lips.

"So you sell fruit?" he asks through the translator.

"Yes," Viant says.

"Is it cut up or whole fruit?" Sammy continues.

"Whole," Viant says.

"Oh, I like fruit," Sammy says.

Sammy, Viant, the interpreter and two of Viant's friends all go to dinner on Sammy. He invites Viant to come back the following day for breakfast and an all-day date. He plans to buy a Laotian-to-English dictionary first.

Meanwhile, Ben meets Boom, a 27-year-old with a two-year-old son and, unlike Joy, one of Richard's tour girls. There's instant chemistry between Ben and Boom. "It's not manipulation," Ben insists. "They just want to love someone. They're not just fooling around; they want to show you they care for you intimately. I wasn't prepared for that, and I'm not complaining. It's flattering."

Lee is talking to Kung, a widow with two grown boys. A retired X-ray technician, she's now studying massage. "She may start up the first Thai massage parlor in the U.S.," Lee says with a wink, as the two hold hands.

Greg shows a young woman his album, complete with pictures of his trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. He asks if she's heard of Dolly Parton. He points to a photo and tries to explain the humor of finding bears digging through a restaurant dumpster.

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Luke Turf

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