Last year, still smarting from the cost of my house and a new car, I was approached by my wife’s brother with a business proposition. I knew the family had been investing heavily in land blocks further into the mountains; this was government land where there had been established some sort of title through long term usage. Something like squatting in Western countries; but then many of the larger land holdings in America and Australia had been acquired merely by people settling on vacant land that they had no legal claim to. My wife had spent most of her spare money up there too, they were encouraged by the arrival of a cabinet minister’s younger brother who had bought the claims to several hundred rai from the long term users, mainly hills tribe people, and built a large hot-season holiday house surrounded by
landscaped gardens. Confidence spread that this land would soon receive legal title so those with money hurried to follow his example expecting one baht return for a few stang outlay.
The proposition I received was that my brother in law had been invited to purchase a building block fronting the street at a very attractive price. For an outlay of two hundred and fifty thousand baht he could expect to sell it for no less than four hundred thousand in two years time. Because of investing heavily in the government land he only had half the money but this was gold chip, legal title, we couldn’t go wrong. In the interim he would build a restaurant, at his expense, that would provide jobs for his daughter and son in law. I liked the sound of it immediately, more people working in the family was less of a drain on my resources, the unemployed seemed to spend several days a week at my house trimming bushes and cutting lawns, something that could be easily handled one day a month. The deal was done and construction commenced, the roof supports were tree trunks and cement roofing sheets completed the job. Two small rooms were built out the back, one a kitchen for the restaurant and the other sleeping quarters for the happy couple. Then, Oh frabjous day!, a wondrous machine arrived. Possibly several decades old it was the fore-father of the video jukebox but came complete with microphone that enabled the user to turn off the vocals and follow the lyrics written on the screen personally. This phenomenon was hired in return for eighty percent of the take. The word passed around the village rapidly and soon most of the younger people started patronising the place. A large Farang would even wander down most nights (inspecting his investment), they said, and occasionally send a bottle of Chang over to the tables that were spending the most money.
My dog and I soon became friendly with many of the regular patrons, most of whom would arrive drunk and proceed to get drunker. They were pleased to drink with a Farang and would send drinks over to my table along with chicken bones and buffalo hide strips for my dog.
Many a night I walk home to the accompaniment of braying, drunken Thai voices proclaiming their broken hearts. (Are Thai songs about anything else?)
I expect to eventually get a return on my investment, the son in law has a mother in New Zealand who occasionally sends him money so he may buy me out, but I am not greatly concerned. My half of the land is in my wife’s name and she will handle the sale but it has become “something to do”. For a little more than a hundred thousand baht I have become a landlord and take my responsibilities seriously.
© Julian. All rights reserved by the author.