My Date with Mr Thailand
I've seen him around for years, driving his saamlor up and down Khaosan Road. With the music blasting from the saamlor's speakers and flashing fairy lights, it's pretty hard to miss him.
Then there's the outfit. Like a colonial soldier crossed with Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Mr Thailand is one of the most interesting and unique characters in Khaosan Road.
My heart is beating slightly too fast as Mr Thailand takes my hand in his and helps me into the back of his saamlor.
It had never really occurred to me that beneath the crazy outfit and huge glasses Mr Thailand might be handsome, but as he flashes me a seductive smile I feel myself melt a little.
Mr Thailand reaches around and turns on the music. Everyone turns to look as we make our way down the road blasting out loud rock and pop music. This may not be the most romantic 'date' I've ever been on, but it's certainly one of the most interesting.
We pull out into the busy Bangkok traffic, Mr Thailand turning around in his seat every few minutes to change the music and ask if I'm having fun. 'Number 1 in Thailand, there is no number 2', he tells me modestly.
I don't want to be a backseat driver, so I let Mr Thailand call the shots and take me where he will. People wave and cheer as we glide slowly past. I try hard to hide my embarrassment, painfully aware that we are the main attraction.
Mr Thailand steers the saamlor slowly into Soi Rambhutri and I wait for the ground to open and swallow me up. Everyone is staring at us, not even bothering to hide their amusement. As backpackers salute me in my carriage, I try to console myself with the fact that in a few days they will have moved on and I'll be able to show my face once more.
Unlike me, Mr Thailand is loving the attention. He stops and poses while backpackers take photos, making a point of greeting all the pretty women as he passes. Being with Mr Thailand is like stepping into the spotlight. Everyone knows him, from tuk-tuk drivers to pad thai sellers, and all greet him warmly.
As we go along, Mr Thailand points out his favourite places to eat street food and drink beer. He tells me that he loves drinking with Westerners, announcing that they are a lot of fun. The best part of his job, he says, is all the Westerners he meets. Make that all the Western women. When we stop, Mr Thailand shows me a selection of pictures of him posing with his arm draped around beautiful women.
Although he may look strange, I am quickly coming to the conclusion that Mr Thailand is one of the cleverest people around. The man - who mysteriously refuses to tell me his name or age - comes from Si Saket in Isaan, north-east Thailand.
Mr Thailand was working as a farm labourer, earning less than 100 Baht a day when he first visited Bangkok. He quickly realized that there was good money to be made, downed tools and relocated to the city.
Mr Thailand has now been living and driving his saamlor around Khaosan Road for five years. With no family ties either here or in his home town, he is free to peddle people around the city as he wants. The most popular destinations are Patpong and Sukhumvit, but Mr Thailand will happily take people anywhere they want to go. The fare depends on the generosity of the passenger but he generally receives 500 Baht for 1 hour of peddle power.
Our 'date' draws to a close as we stop in the middle of Khaosan Road. I somehow manage to ignore the backpackers' stares as I climb down from my carriage. But Mr Thailand has one more humiliation in store. With a grin he introduces me to the stuffed parrot that sits atop his saamlor, motioning me to wai to it (putting my hands together and bowing a little in Thailand's customary show of respect).
Then, with a toot of his plastic flower horn, Mr Thailand is gone. For anyone looking for a memorable experience and a moment in the spotlight, Mr Thailand will give you a ride you'll never forget.
Getting to him:
If you want to find Mr. Thailand just wait around KSR and wait for all the head's to turn - it'll be him… His English is good enough and he is very willing to please. He's a massive asset and brings a lot of joy to people's lives, so be generous if you use his services!
About the author:
Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!