Mark, the expat Private Investigator (PI)
Who is that expat private investigator "Mark" that you are communicating with by email?
I, Mark, arrived in Bangkok, Thailand, in 1994 working as a communications consultant, age 35 at the time. I had spent the previous 10 years in the Washington, D.C., region. I have lived in Thailand since 1994 as my home base. As of the time of this writing, 2005, that's 11 years!
(I'm originally from Arkansas, USA. I got my B.Sc. in physics with a minor in political science ... worked in the US space program in Washington DC in advanced planning, then became a communications consultant for a long time there, with worldwide exposure. Came to Bangkok consulting to an Asia regional office center, then started my own business here in 1995.)
That September 1994 day was my first time in Asia, arriving around 8pm, and I was transported from the airport straight to the pre-arranged luxurious condo at the end of ... Sukhumvit soi 4 !! (Sethiwan Palace, the designated condo at no cost to me.) I didn't know that Nana was a "special" soi, and was astonished at what I saw in my first walk down a street in Asia. (However, I explored Nana Plaza only once in the next few months, though I became increasingly curious about it every time I passed by.)
I came with my American girlfriend who was a blond haired, blue eyed, super fit and overly adventuresome sort. Nonetheless, that relationship didn't last long.
In my first months in Bangkok, I actually didn't do much socializing in mainstream Thai society, and the Thais who I more closely interacted with practically all spoke excellent English and were of high professional status in Thai society. Nonetheless, without any Thai language skills except the Thai numbers, just in "people-watching" Thais in public places and my limited dealings, I found Thai culture and society to have interesting fundamental differences from Western culture, and to be very pleasant and kind whereby "you know, I could chill out here". As professional progress was typically too slow, and having started to explore Bangkok and mix in the expat community of purely private multinational managers who were interested in my skills and could approve work right away (no bureaucracy), I reassessed my whole near future. I was also burnt out from years of too much work along the same lines, and was ready for some changes in my life, both professionally and personally. Ready to "move to the next town and reinvent myself", so by the end of 1994 my decision was made.
I decided to break free of my living and consulting community obligations, but to stay in the Bangkok region as a base, independently. I moved to my own purely private place, totally on my own, and dove into Thai society and the tourist and purely private sector multinational expat community.
To nearly all of my associates and friends up to that point, the joke was that I was suddenly "missing in action (MIA)". (My closest friends and associates always knew how to reach me by email which I checked most days; otherwise, I could have become a "missing person" for another PI agency.)
It was a long overdue break for me.
In the next year (1995), with savings in the pocket, I did what typical tourists and expats do in Thailand -- I boldly explored many places, hung out at a lot of bars / discotheques / clubs, met a lot of Thai ladies, and had numerous relationships of various sorts. Among the exploresome wonderful adventures, I also found myself in some foolish situations and made a lot of mistakes, but I also learned a lot of things from these experiences. It was perhaps the most fun, exploresome and adventuresome year of my life!
I made a lot of friends from all over the world, and a lot of girlfriends from all over Thailand. I learned the ropes from my own direct experience as well as from the experiences of many friends and associates.
1995 started as "my long overdue vacation year". My motto was "You're young only once, so make the most of this time!" I'm not an overly cautious or paranoid person, nor do I worry too much about my reputation in matters like this, nor do I fear failure. It's better to have ventured out and learned some things than to have never given it a go. I generally don't care too much what other people think about me, as my ego isn't fragile and I live my own life. Neither do I buy others' dramatically overblown fears. I choose to live my life to its fullest.
(I am absolutely sure that there are envious people out there who will make snide remarks about some of my adventures. I feel sorry for them at the moment, then move further forward myself.)
Even though my craziest years were 10 years ago, guys still come to me with basically the same situations as I often found myself in, or which close friends & associates and customers of mine have experienced in the subsequent 10 years. It's the same sorts of situations over and over in P.I. work in 2005 as it was in life in 1995.
The only thing which has changed is that internet has unfolded into the mainstream so that we now have internet dating cases, a new medium and process which I and my PI staff have become intimately familiar with rather vicariously as private investigators. (Also, my cameras and other digital equipment have evolved over time.) Overall, however, relationships are still the same. The human species hasn't changed in Thailand or anywhere else, and cultures and subcultures have changed only marginally.
The first couple of months around New Years 1994-5, I lived in two different places on Sukhumvit, one on soi 11 and the other off Asoke. Every night was packed with new experiences within walking distance. In the daytime, I would explore the city by taking buses way out, wandering around, taking canal boats (most of which stopped operations by the year 2000), and then renting motorcycles in the suburbs and really exploring around. At night, it was back to the bars, discos and clubs not far from my apartments. That went on for just about 2 months.
Then I moved out of the Sukhumvit area, choosing a favorite place I'd found near Ramkamhaeng University, an open university and the biggest university in Thailand in the Bangkok suburb of Bangkapi. I still periodically taxied into Sukhumvit and other areas at night to hang out with expat friends (and so I didn't forget how to speak English), but I also started getting into mainstream Thai society, including some Thai student and yuppie groups, starting with those who spoke good English ... and I started learning Thai pretty quickly, as I was embedded in a purely Thai community whereas I was the odd foreigner. I would switch back and forth, between taxi-ing into the Sukhumvit-Silom-Siam Square region, and spending time in the suburbs where my home was.
There were countless nights when events would unfold whereby I didn't go back home, instead waking up the next morning in some sort of living environment of a female, or in a hotel near where I had strayed out to, or on some pad and pillows of some third party. In my pockets at all times were not only a pad and ink pen but also a short toothbrush. I'd usually wake up with a pleasant "Where the hell am I today?" Coffee is everywhere in Thailand, so there was a new adventure looking around a new part of Bangkok in the cool morning sunlight (and how many ladies change in appearance from the night before...), so I didn't need anything more. Clothes markets are always nearby, too, so I lost a lot of shirts and underwear along my trails. It was a great year, 1995.
Over time, my social groups shifted away from foreigner-centered to Thai-centered. My Thai language capabilities had grown rapidly.
In mid-1995, I ramped up my computer consulting to quite a number of multinational companies, largely based on expats I met in the foreigner areas. This was parttime, not fulltime, and I did it as much for the broad multinational exposure as for the money. These were not contracts in an 8-to-5 Monday-Friday routine, but instead were hourly and daily consultations. Many of them were just troubleshooting, setting up LANs, getting computers up on construction sites and linked by modem to the design and management offices, and electrical work like proper grounding. None of it nailed me down to an 8-to-5 or Monday-Friday routine. I also made friends with some other computer consultants who could do jobs for me in case I was contacted by a customer while I was out on a lark.
By the end of 1995, I had "been there, done that" in the foreigner nightlife scenes, as well as many parts of the Thai scene. Socializing with expats after work was about the only thing which brought me back to those same old expat haunts (over and over...). When I wasn't out with other expats, my social life had become more suburban-centered in the young Thai areas. My Thai language and social skills were quite sufficient for this, and I was still young, mid-30s.
However, my nightlife routine changed from "constant" in 1995 to "occasional" by 1996 and has tapered off since then.
There comes a time when you've "been there and done that" as regards the Thailand relationships and nightlife/daytime adventures, and you snap back to your natural old routines. A one year "break" was enough, and that's where I stood at the end of 1995.
(In that one year, 1995, I seemed like I drank more alcohol than in the rest of my life combined, even breaking my rule of "never more than twice a week", as I'm fine in a nightclub with a plain orange juice and just the music. I'm a scientist and very health conscious. I haven't smoked since early teenage years, and caffeine is the only other thing I put in my brain besides the occasional alcohol. It was at the end of this one year period that I really cut back on alcohol consumption in my life, after a binge.)
Falling in love is also like being drunk -- you go thru some emotions and do some unusual things, and then one day if you wake up to a popped illusion then you are amazed at your behavior while under the influence of a female. I did this an embarrassingly large number of times over the course of 1995 -- more than enough heavy duty dating for a whole lifetime!
In late 1995, I started a longterm relationship with a Thai lady I'd met at a company in my consulting and thanks to a facilitating mutual friend. I got lucky. All I can say is that the longer you live in Thailand, and the wider realms you expose yourself to, the greater the chance you will get lucky. Anyway, I felt better more settled down, like it was a return to sanity.
In my general consulting, I also started to pick up some girlfriend private investigations from friends and associates -- to check out their girlfriends while they were out of town, as I had the skills and experience to do these.
In 1997, the Asia Economic Crash happened. There were signs of problems before the crash, and I anticipated the reality before most others did, based on some direct observations, consulting with some experts who I saw as objective rather than biased, and my knowledge of history in other parts of the world with similar economic indicators.
Most of my work associates had the attitude that "naahhhh, it hasn't happened before in Asia so it won't happen, it's just temporary glitches at the moment" and just continued to do their jobs with their heads in the sand, just wishful thinking and don't-worry rationalizations. A few of my customers in the engineering & construction sector had delayed paying me a bit too long, and when I pushed my own further investigation into friendly conversations with their accounting staff of various companies, I put together a pattern of some serious sector-wide liquidity concerns. Some of my expat friends had stopped getting their regular paychecks by their companies with promises of just delays until so-and-so paid them... Consulting with certain other expats who I'd met at professional socials whose opinions and objectivity I had come to respect, and who had access to more hard facts than I could collected myself, it became clear there were some unusual problems in the Thai economy. There was a liquidity problem due to overbuilding of skyscrapers, price collapses for office and condominium units, and revenue shortfalls relative to expenses. The property sector was the first domino, including construction, and the banks were second (non-performing loans, or NPLs) domino.
On July 2, 1997, it became official when the baht was floated and suddenly dropped in value from 25 to 40 to the US dollar very quickly, and thereafter nobody was in denial anymore. Money is the bottom line.
(Hong Kong had just switched from British to Chinese rule just two days previous, by coincidence.)
Multinational companies immediately started laying off their expats, and other expats started jumping ship to go back home for jobs which truly paid in their own countries. Quite a number were CEOs who were signatory to serious corporate debts and headed to the walk-over border rather than thru the computerized airport passport control center, as some creditors were scrambling to prevent foreign debtors from escaping before being squeezed for payments.
I know that many tourists and expats reading this will see this as either ancient history or "pre-historic" as regards their interests.
Just let it be known that I survived here largely because I started ramping up my private investigations business. At this time, immediately after the July 1997 crash, I got a surge in work for my expat friends and associates who had just left Thailand but still had girlfriends in Thailand, who the exited expats were sending money to (with an uncertain job future themselves), and many were in the visa process for these ladies.
(Some other private investigation work was figuring out which companies and individuals could pay their bad debts, which properties could be purchased as investments at firesale prices, due diligence issues such as what legal liabilities and other issues could cause a problem if an investor got involved in something, and so on.)
As internet was not widespread back then, my private investigations were based mainly on word-of-mouth referrals in my broader community.
As I expanded the private investigation business into other areas, I took on research of export suppliers (overt), as well as finding relatives of Thai people for other Thai people or half-Thais (also overt).
Being in Thailand, I knew that to do private investigations to a sufficient quality of service, I must hire and train good Thai people, not do many of the investigations myself. I had developed a lot of good Thai friends and associates, and some were interested in doing the work, as well as having the personalities and experiences which fit within the requirements, so I trained them in private investigations.
For the obvious reasons discussed elsewhere on this website, it is better to have Thais performing most of these investigations, especially as regards discreet Thai lady investigations. My role was the training, marketing, customer correspondence, and management.
I lived with the above-mentioned lady in Nakhon Pathom province for a year, about an hour commute out of Bangkok, which was not a problem because I didn't work every day, and hotels are cheap in Bangkok anyway. I was the only foreigner in my community, and I normally wouldn't see another foreigner until I drove into Bangkok.
I took time out to write and self-publish a book that I'd never made the time for, which isn't at all related to Thailand but you can see it at www.PERMANENT.com, and in this time of slow business I also travelled around the Asia region.
After the great economic crash, I had considered moving elsewhere, but after planning and really thinking about it, and travelling around, I changed my mind. I spent much of 1999 writing www.ThailandGuru.com and then moved back to the Bangkok region permanently in 2000.
In 2001, some of our investigations got a bit too hot to handle, so we decided to discontinue some areas of our business and switch our emphasis to doing more Thai lady relationship investigations and finding lost Thai relatives (mainly due to two referral communities, long story). We resumed under a new name in 2002, ThailandPI.com , and with a new set of investigations we would do, and stating clearly what we would refuse. Most of our cases since this time have been relationship oriented.
I have been thru a lot of agents over the years, and what has shaken out is a core group which is stable, experienced and reliable. While we are all experienced in relationships both ourselves and via our close friends & associates, the experiences we gain from investigations of others' relationships far exceeds our own experiences.
Everyone's different, and what's right for one person may be entirely different from what's right for another. We don't judge, though when our customers wish, we are most willing to give our analysis, comparisons and opinions in the context of the lady, the situation, our experiences, and the customer's own outlook.
We don't go into investigations or realms with a judgemental attitude. We understand the different backgrounds people are born into, and that you cannot control the country, physical or economic situation, family or community of your origins, nor can you choose your biological traits, appearance, and the genetic and environmental parts of your personality and outlook. We don't look down on bargirls from farms in Isaan, nor do we judge people based on their origins, religions, race, etc. You have what life gave you from the start.
The issues to resolve are usually those of "intentions", honesty, and compatibility -- whether a relationship will really work.
The first order of the day is collecting facts and observations, by discreet surveillance and/or undercover interaction when the customer is not there for the lady to stage behavior to. We know the things to look for -- money-oriented relationships with other foreign men, and/or a lecherous Thai boyfriend (especially a do-nothing) who she is supporting with the foreign man's money, and/or stories to get the man to send more money but which are not true, and/or various other questionable things about her present or past.
It is important to know the difference between facts and opinions.
Some cases are black and white, e.g., the lady is either clearly deceptive in a serious way, or else she is seeing only the customer and serious about a future with only him. However, many cases are "grey area" and the main issue is whether it will work or can be made to work. Many guys get a "bad" or "mixed" report and then work out with the lady a more realistic relationship.
The first priority is to collect facts and observations for the customer, so that the customer can make a most informed decision. If the customer wishes, we can help the customer with analysis based on our experiences in order to lead to any particular decisions.
I wish to say that I am not dependent upon Thailand Private Investigations for all my income, as you can see from my other websites. Quite to the contrary. As the only expat on the team of Thailand Private Investigations, I do the communications with other expats, and help in the analysis. However, the rest of the private investigation staff are Thais, mostly Thai ladies, who are either 100% fulltime private investigators or else about halftime. Some also double up as translators in our translation division at www.ThaiEnglish.com (and translate a lot of love letters in addition to professional corporate items). We also have an exports business. I don't need to take on cases. I mainly just have willing Thai friends and associates who I've employed a long time and this is what they see as their profession. They are my employees from yesteryears and my responsibility. They are usually eager to get out of the office and onto another case, and get excited when I raise a new case. They have also apprenticed some of their close friends and associates. The way they push me, sometimes I wonder whether I'm still their boss or whether I serve them -- as expat email communicator. I analyze and partly manage the operations at the top level, but Ms. Kanta runs the office operations and Ms. Kanta manages operations in the field, though they all look to me for expat email and telephone communications with other westerners. So I do this parttime, so that some of the can stay employed fulltime, and still others parttime.
All the best,
If you want to know who we are and whether we are well established:
We are the same people as ThailandGuru.com (working and living in Thailand continuously since 1994, my background covered there), as well as www.ThaiEnglish.com (quality translators and interpreters since 2002) and a property company, www.kkBkk.com (we know the Bangkok region very well...), though incorporated as sister companies and with multiple divisions within a company.
You can verify our claims for experience in Thailand from the age our domain, thailandpi.com , which we have owned since 2002, by checking any internet "whois" service. This not only verifies our true experience in Thailand by giving a date, you can also see my name and that we do not hide our identity by any "anonymizer" domain registration service.
All text content on our site is proudly original and copyright © 1997-2008, All Rights Reserved.
We do not tolerate copycats, and we are honorable people with class. Please remember thaiLANDpi.com
Our address is truly on "Bond Street", no joke, purely coincidental (i.e., not associated with James Bond).
Our office is in the same location shown on (and photo at) www.ThaiEnglish.com , just next to them.
ThailandPI, Riviera Tower 3, 226/15 Bond St., Muang Thong Thani, Pakkred, Nonthaburi, Bangkok 11120 Thailand
Mobile: +66-8-0062-4243 (native English speaker)