Lek was born the eldest child of four in a typical rice farming family. She did not expect to do anything any different from the other girls in her class in the northern rice belt of Thailand.
Typically that would be: work in the fields for a few years; have a few babies; give them to mum to take care of and get back to work until her kids had their own children and it would be her turn to stop working to take care of them.
One day a catastrophe occurred out of the blue – her father died young and with huge debts that the family knew nothing about. Lek was twenty and she was the only one who could prevent foreclosure. However, the only way she knew was to go to work in her cousin’s bar in Pattaya.
She went as a waitress-cum-cashier, but when she realised that she was pregnant by her worthless, estranged husband, things had to change. She had the baby, gave it to her mother to look after and went back to work. However, now she needed real money to provide a better life for her child and to make up for spending its whole youth 500 miles away. She drifted into the tourist sex industry.
The book relates some of her ‘adventures’, her dreams and nightmares and her ‘modus operandi’. It tries to show, from Lek’s point of view, what it really is like to be a Thai bar girl – the hopes and frustrations, the hopes and the let-downs, the hopes and the lies and deceit that are part of her every day life.
One day she meets a man she likes and he likes her too. Nothing new there, it had happened hundreds of times before, but she feels that it is different this time. They have a wonderful four weeks together and then he goes home – as they all had, leaving more promises and more hopes. This one returns, but real life with a real boyfriend is not as easy as she had dreamed it would be. They go through good and bad times, but will they stay together and for how long?
After all she has been through, will she be able to be a regular girlfriend or even a wife again? Will she ever really be able to trust a man enough again either? Or would she be better off giving up her dreams and carrying on working in the bar?
Lek begins to find out that getting what you wish for is not always as good as you thought it would be.
'Behind the Smile' refers to the fact that Thailand is known the world over as 'The Land of Smiles'.
Behind The Smile
The Story of Lek, a Bar Girl in Pattaya
Publication date: 30/11/-0001
How a bar girl drifts into the sex industry and struggles to get out of it again
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