Noises from the room next door woke Sophie, she lay there no longer trying to wipe the sweat away. Since she stepped off the plane in Bangkok the muggy heat had soaked its way in, until it now felt normal. She listened to the mosquitoes buzzing around. The whiny drone pulsed around the room and each time she heard the sound close up she batted the air near her face. She lit the lemon scented candle by the side of her bed and swatted a mozzy she saw coming in to land. Direct hit.
Her mind gently moved to more peaceful things. How she loved the atmosphere of the guest house, so friendly and with the smell of sandalwood and Jasmine everywhere. Best of all, she had found the place all on her own – and got here straight from the airport in an official taxi. Yes, she felt rather pleased with herself and ambled downstairs to make friends.
Someone shouted, ‘The riverboat’s leaving. Quick.’ She was invited along and not wanting to miss out, joined them as they made a mad dash for the jetty and jumped aboard. Sophie elbowed her way past fellow passengers and found herself wrapped in the orange robes of a Buddhist monk. He tried to pull back from her, but not fast enough by far. His wrist-watch had somehow got caught up in one of her big dangly earrings. One of the guys shot over and unhooked her as everyone covered their mouths in horror. It was at that moment she learned two things. A woman must never ever touch the clothing of a Buddhist monk and definitely not get wrapped up in his robes. However, if you do screw up, it is just like the adverts say: ‘Thailand, the land of smiles.’ Fantastic.
Obviously, she felt bad, but she also thought it was no mean task to avoid each and every monk that formed part of this city’s hustle and bustle. There were monks everywhere. She said this to the group and it turns out many guys become monks for a short while at least once in their lifetime. It makes their mums very proud. She laughed at this news – it went a long way to explaining the sexuality some of these golden clad chaps exuded. She said, ‘Forced celibacy for 3 months’ of their life shouldn’t be that hard.’ Everyone laughed, thinking she meant the pun on words. So, she pretended she did and hoped they couldn’t see her blush.
She wasn’t going to let little cultural glitch spoil things. Her first time on the Chao Phraya River was a great moment for her. It didn’t matter that every monk gave her a prodigiously wide berth as she jumped off. She waved at them all and was delighted that they smiled and waved back.
‘Bet they’re mighty relieved’ said a fellow traveller. She laughed and felt her cheeks grow hot. The guy who had helped her unhook from the monk nodded. Worse still he then winked as he made eye contact with her.
Yikes, she thought, could it be true?