I will preface this post with the following personal information.
I am married to an Isaan woman — we married on May 30, 2005. Since May 10, 2006, she has lived with me in Canada. She has two sons that are the product of a failed relationship with a Thai man, who is now deceased. The boys are something over three years apart in age. The two of them did not come to Canada until September 2008. The oldest lad is now 18-years-old as I type this in a post edit of January 8, 2013; the younger boy is 15.
Incidentally, my wife is roughly 23¼ years younger than I am, and stands about 175 centimeters (five feet seven inches).
The following two photos of her were taken just this past New Year’s Eve at a party held at the home of another Farang & Thai couple:
I offer without comment the following two articles from StickmanBangkok.com:
I have previously quoted the following paragraph taken from the Wikipedia article Isan, and feel it merits being posted again:
Marriage and courtship in Isan still mainly follows strict tradition, especially in rural areas, and most young women are married by the time they are 20 years old. Many girls, in spite of the legal requirement, marry as young as fourteen to escape poverty, as usually marriage is associated with a dowry paid by the husband to the bride’s family. A dowry will not normally be less than 40,000 Thai baht, and according to the status of the bride and/or her family, can often greatly exceed 300,000 baht. Isan women rarely have boyfriends until they meet the man whom they will eventually marry, and tradition requires that the betrothal is then announced. Younger fiancées will be chaperoned, usually by a female friend, brother or sister while in the company of their future husband. The wedding ceremony usually takes place in the bride’s home and is normally officiated by one or several monks or a respected village elder who has been a monk. Young couples are increasingly registering their marriages at the city hall, which they can do if they are over 17. The extended family system is still very much the traditional social structure in Isan, with newly wed couples often living with in-laws or building a home on the family compound or farmland. It is not unusual however, for many women to remain single until much later. Tradition demands that the youngest or only daughter continues to live at home to take care of her parents. They are then only free to marry when both parents are deceased. There is also the tradition that a woman should ‘marry up’ in status. If the woman is tied to an occupation in a rural area as a farm or business owner, teacher, or similar profession, finding a suitable husband and one who is prepared to relocate is often not easy.
Then there is this short article published May 22, 2009, in The Nation titled Bagging a farang:
More than three-fifths of women in the Northeast surveyed in an Isaan poll said they wanted to marry farang husbands, mainly because of their wealth, faithfulness and respect for women.Of 484 women living in 19 northeastern provinces surveyed in March and April, 61 per cent said they deemed Western men rich, 53 per cent said they thought farang men were kind and respected women more than Thai men, while 16 per cent said they wanted to marry and live abroad.
Englishmen were the favourites, gaining 32 per cent of respondents’ votes, while Americans and Germans trailed behind with 21 and eight per cent respectively.
The survey found that women who were already married to foreign husbands spent a large portion (20 per cent) of their monthly income on electricity and water bills as their homes tended to be large and full of domestic appliances – another factor that attracted single, northeastern women.
Another article in The Nation of note that was published back in December 2, 2006, was written by a Thai woman: Don’t blame Isaan wives; women are all the same.
The personals website ThaiLoveLines.com has a somewhat interesting July 24, 2012, article that I think deserves mention, since it seems to focus on Isaan women: Thai women seeking life in America driven by discrimination in Thailand. The same website also has this September 9, 2012, article: Isaan woman and racial divides in Thailand.
In similar vein, a young man from the same area of Canada where I am felt moved to submit a short piece to StickmanBangkok.com that is titled Isaan Women In The West.
A charitable project called Isaan New Life claims the following:
Isaan is a plateau in the far northeast of Thailand. It is home to about 20 million people, mostly subsistence rice farmers. Because of low incomes in Isaan many young people leave their villages to find work in the cities of Thailand and Asia. Recent estimates claim as many as 450,000 young women and children from Isaan are to be found on the streets, in the brothels and in the massage parlors of Bangkok and Pattaya. Isaan New Life gives these young women and children new hope for a future that does not depend on prostitution. Through innovation and the economic development of these communities we have pledged to help eradicate poverty in Isaan.
A rather bleak look at the people of Isaan is offered in this ThaiWorldView.com profile titled Poor Isan.
Ajarn Michael‘s overview Isaan: Northeast Thailand is helpful in this same context.
While men have a higher social stutus, in reality, women are the backbone of the country and in no way looked down on.
As for the women of Isaan, the blog Behind the Noodle Curtain has an instructive March 7, 2009, post titled Bad and good things happen to Isaan (Thailand) women that is worth a read.
I would also like to refer to OrientExpat.com‘s short feature on the Isaan Region:
It is common to find young Isaan women working in the bars, brothels and gogo bars of Bangkok and major tourists resorts. This has partly been responsible for the curious phenomenon of the Isaan farang, many of whom married a bar girl and relocated with her to the family village up country. Many of these relationships are successful. Just as many were doomed to failure right from the start, due to cultural misunderstandings, language difficulties etc. That said, it is certainly not fair to assume all farangs you meet in the region are there due to the ‘bar fine romance’.
The Thai Visa Forum has a six-page thread that was begun December 12, 2006, that has some interesting views, even if many are utter foolishness: Issan Women.
Another article I have posted before is this from the personals website Lao Babes, and titled Isaan Girls In North Eastern Thailand — it offers a fairly unique perspective:
Isaan girls are people who live in north eastern parts of Thailand more commonly known as Isaan.
Girls from Isaan are mostly Laotians in terms of their ethnic background and cultural history, but they are obviously Thai nationals because Isaan is now part of Thailand, but it was once a Lao region during the Lan Xang Kingdom era.
For most Lao men, Isaan girls are not as attractive compared to a typical Lao girl living in Laos, but you often hear or see many thousands of western men dating and marrying Isaan girls because they favour dark-skinned and charming asian women.
Thais from other parts of the country have tended in the past and present to either ignore or disparage Isaan and its inhabitants. This is due to the cultural differences because the people of Issan are more Lao than Thai. In fact many central Thais often tend to put Isaan down by simply referring to them as Lao from a poor region.
Although the people of Isaan primarily live in villages and small towns, the region still has several large cities including Nakhon Ratchasima, Ubon Ratchathani Khon Khaen, and Udon Thani. Isaan however doesn’t fit the images that come to mind when most foreigners visualise Thailand. The flat dry terrain of Isaan probably reminds more of the Australian Outback or Texas then it does of the more popular imagery of Thailand – Sandy beaches, stunning topped mountains and tropical forests.
Most Isaan girls who work in clubs and bars throughout Thailand are dancers, prostitutes or victims of sex slavery. When decent paying jobs are hard to find in their Isaan home town, young Isaan girls tend to move to more popular tourist destinations such as Bangkok and Pattaya for better opportunites and most girls often end up in the sex industry.
Isaan girls never relocate to live in Laos, if there are it would be a very small number. However many Isaan girls visit Laos daily by the bus load, especially to Vientiane where there are more things to see and do. Isaan girls don’t look cute but they are more closely related to Lao and they understand Lao language.
Everyone has their own opinion. Think for yourself.
A few assorted final references:
Interesting article recently in the Bangkok Post On the last day of my 1st visit to Thailand and the Big Mango Bar, I had a pile of notes that I didn’t want.
There is plenty out there on the internet about the dangers to western men of getting involved with a woman for Isaan. The standard assumption seems to be that she is or was a bar girl (or other sort of prostitute). Contrary to …
“When men first come here they are victims of the Western feminazis. They are amazed at the totally different interaction between men and women in Thailand. Of course, this is what unhinges so many of us too. I can’t deny it.
dancing beung kaen nakhon, khon kaen
tom isaan Uploaded on 2 Mar 2011
presents another isaan video
the tesaban hold exercise dance for seniors at the children’s library along beung kaen nakhon here in isaan thailand
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