saved by the smell?

Ayuthaya, Thailand

Sun, 20 Jan 2002 04:20:09 +0000 (GMT)

My travels with Lek just took a turn for the seriously freaky/scary, you may want to close your eyes while reading certain parts of this email! It certainly doesn't go anywhere near my folks, I don't think they would see the funny side.

There is a Thai phrase - "ming farang". It means foreign person smell. They think we smell funny. In fact an Irish guy I met said he had a Thai girlfriend briefly and one night she decided to wash his hair 7 times to see if it got rid of the smell. It didn't!

For the last few days, I've been minging with the best of them. Whoever did my laundry in Chiang Mai considers ironing and washing to be the same thing, so my "clean" clothes aren't so clean right now. Hopefully I'll fix that today. This is all relevant by the way.

Yesterday, Lek arrived to my hotel room with a young boy. My suspicious mind leapt into action. I assumed his car boot full of sweets and goodies had finally paid off. There was also a 12 year old girl in his own room. It turns out they were his niece and nephew and we were all going to visit Sukhothai (ancient ruins and big Buddhas) together. I felt a bit guilty for assuming the worst.

It was an uneventful trip, except for the air conditioning in his car dying. They had seen it all before, so while I wandered around taking photos, they sat in the car. Kinda ruined it a bit as I knew they didn't really want to be there.

After Sukhothai, Lek brought dropped off the kids at his hotel room again and brought me to a coffee shop. I'd consider going 40km for decent coffee a little extreme but hey.

While there we got onto the subject of religion, life and death. He seems a little obsessed about death, frequently making jokes and pointing out cemeteries as we pass them. Turns out he's more than a little!

I went to the loo and when I came back he was fidgetting with some photos. Once again I assumed the worst, I thought I'd seen plenty of flesh exposed and immediatley thought porn. Then I said no, give him the benefit of the doubt you cynical git! I couldn't possibly have guessed what the pictures were of.

He held them up for me to see. They were of a dead woman, after what looked like an autopsy. She was split open from neck to navel. Pretty gory and a strange thing to carry around. What really freaked me out was when he asked me "Could you make love to her?"!!!! I thought I was going to barf, not so much from the question but the fact that my bags were in his room and he was driving me 40km back to town!

That was the longest 40km ever and my fingerprints are now permanently imprinted onto my Swiss Army knife! Everything he said to me on the way back took on a new meaning. What would have been funny before seemed threatening and sinister. "Could you spend a night alone in that cemetery?", "What happens to people after they die", "I'm a safe driver, I don't want to kill you", "You should take a bath when we get back to the hotel". In fairness that last one could have had a lot to do with the dodgy air con and my laundry! The whole thing wasn't helped by roadworks, which meant a diversion down an unlit country lane in the middle of nowhere!

When I got back, I had that shower, with the door securely locked and my kife at the ready. There were still 6 hours until my bus left, I was on the bus because Lek insisted there was no need to book the train in the morning as there'd be plenty of seats.

I put on some more "clean" clothes and headed out on my own for a couple of hours. When I got back myelf and Lek spent some time in the hotel bar, listening to the house band murder some all time favourites. "Harro? Is it me you're lurking for?". They managed to turn Van Morrisson's "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?" from a song about the deepest commitment into an argument from a marriage guidance session.

Fill my heart with gladness, take away my sadness, Ease my troubles, that's what you do.


Fill my house with gravels, take away my sandals, Eat my truffles, that's what you do.

I really wish I had a way to record it as I'm not making that up!

Throughout all this Lek was sitting quite a distance away, thank god.

About an hour before the bus was due to leave, he suggested I have another shower. I politely declined, explaining I had no more clean clothes. We drove down to the station but were about 10 minutes too early for the bus. Rather than sit and wait, Lek took me for a spin, once again firmly gripping my knife!

When we finally said goodbye it was a serious relief, although I half expected him to be waiting at the bus terminal when I got off again 5 hours later!

I'm pretty sure Lek is just a harmless nutjob with too much time and money on his hands but there is the possibility that he's a homicidal necrophiliac who was only held at bay by my sweat glands and bad laundry. Like the case of the Vietnamese Hammock Salesman, I'll let you decide, but I suppose we'll never know for sure...

Anyway, if my first 7 weeks are any indication of the future, there's plenty more where he came from!