I look back on the photos of my first Asian and smile. Smile at my smiles – hell I’m smiling all the time and that just doesn’t feel like me. Dude on holiday? Possibly. Possibly, more.
Albeit, the weird thing is that my smile is not the usual fake selfie smile, but what seems to be a true one, coupled with shining eyes. I guess Thailand taught me to smile at everyone for everything and at all times.
To the street vendors offering their goodies in broken English. To the odd ladyboy who approached me near Nana to offer me the best sex I could ever envisage. (“Watch out dude”, said another farang. You’re talking to a GUY!) To the police officers in charge of checking my suitcase, a tad too morosely I thought, on entering an MRT or BTS station. To the sweet blushing Thai teenagers who giggled incessantly when I asked them for directions to a store that would sell underwear in Chiang Mai’s Maya mall. To the taxi drivers around Khao San Road, polite but firmly requesting that they switch on their taxi meters. To the cashiers at 7-Eleven, an apologetic smile for buying a 9 baht banana with a 1000 baht note – not that they could care less. To the songthaew drivers in Chiang Mai, as I negotiated a not too overpriced fare for a ride from Nimman Road to Tha Phae Gate.
I smiled to men, ladies and ladyboys alike. And after a while it was effortless, maybe due to being on vacation or, even more likely, because it was them who smiled before, almost preventively. Whatever the case, I felt I smiled so much that my mouth settled to a smile shape. Sawat dee khrap, smile. Khob khun krhap, smile.
It was funny being back in Madrid right after my first Thai trip. It took a few days for my smile to start fading. People must think I’m nuts, I thought. Or in love. Or both. Throw in a bit of pollution, noise and traffic and the smile will slowly but surely mutate to a mala leche frown.
Or maybe not. Why not start smiling to the stern Castillian bartender who serves you your drink as if he were paying for it himself? Or to the civil servant who gets pissed at you for delaying the start of her coffee break, and is now requesting a document that was never mentioned in their website? Or the asshole in the car behind you who’s honking because it took you half a second to move after the green light?
To all of them, an honest Thai smile. For life is supposed to be sanuk, right?