Bangkok Phil

Missionary position

Finding salvation on Bangkok's MRT


Maybe I just look like the kind of guy who needs saving from his life of sin, but the fresh-faced, blonde-haired young man with the Hollywood smile, homed straight in on me.

He boarded the MRT at Petchburi station, took a quick scan of the carriage and decided that I was definitely his man. "How are you doing today?" he chirped.

Dripping with sweat and wrestling with my tangled I-Pod cable, I somehow managed to muster a rather unfriendly "alright thanks".

Most people would have taken that as a signal to go forth and multiply but when there are souls to be rescued from the devil's evil clutches, such brush-offs are minor, almost insignificant obstacles at best.

Question time

We both knew exactly what was coming next - the cluster of unbearable conversational gambits. "How long have you lived in Bangkok?". "Where are you from?". "What do you do here?". "Are you on your way home?"

I hadn't been asked these questions since the last time I drank in Soi Cowboy but I played along and gave him the answers he wanted to hear.

I closed my eyes and braced myself for the full impact of the inevitable segue way. "I'm from the Church of the Latter Day Saints, and we believe that......" The rest is just a blur. I wasn't listening. I just wanted to make sure I didn't miss my stop.

He then apologized for not introducing himself. To be honest I forget the name. It was something like Brad or Chuck or something equally wholesome, clean-living and unmistakably American.

Getting hairy

"Are you a religious person?" he enquired. I answered yes without a moment's hesitation. But it's amazing how you can live here for eighteen years and not be able to think of one single church when pressed for a name.

"Do you have time to get together with me to talk about things?"

Talk about what exactly? United's chances of reaching the champion's league knockout stage? Has this been the hottest November in Bangkok's history?

Thankfully the train pulled up at MRT Asoke and the whoosh of the opening doors was my signal to leg it. I was up that escalator and through the ticket barrier before you could say 'complimentary bible'.

Somewhere on a distant cloud, a bearded man with a kindly face might have shaken his head in disbelief, but I had to get out of there pronto.

The best laid plans of mice and men aside, the missionary quickened his pace to follow me across the station concourse. "What will you do when you get home?" he asked.

"Well I'll probably get home about six and then spend some time parading in front of the mirror in my wife's clothes. She doesn't get home until seven you see. Now leave me alone."

I didn't say that of course. I'm far too nice a guy. I told him I would give God some very serious thought and implored him to keep up the good work.

Other 'victims'

One powerful handshake later and he disappeared into the crowd of commuters to select another victim. However, I couldn't resist the temptation to stand and hover from a safe distance. 'Selling religion' in Thailand must be a dream at least in terms of grabbing someone who'll listen.

I watched the young missionary approach several Thais in the space of a few minutes and they all listened intently before telling him they couldn't speak English. Now why didn't I think of that?

Still, I have nothing but respect for a man who will willingly travel around on a subway train - in a capital city - and make conversation with total strangers. As anyone who has seen Borat - The Movie will testify, it doesn't always work out that well.




Comments

I told some Thai women (at Asoke BTS) from a church that I was from Finland and couldn't speak English. One of them couldn't get it through her head, and every time I told her (in Thai) that I didn't understand what she was saying (in Thai), she would try to say it really slowly in horrible English, to which I would reply in Thai that I can't speak a word of English. This happened for a few minutes until I got really fed up and walked away. I gave you a chance to explain baptism and your church to me, but you still couldn't accept that a white person can't speak English and speaks Thai at least twice as good as you speak English. Why would I want to go to your church after that experience?

By Mike, BKK (27th November 2015)

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