Behind The Smile - Lek The Prequel
~ the story of Lek, a Thai bargirl in Pattaya, Thailand
Lek was a child in the late Seventies and early Eighties in the wealthiest farming region in Thailand - the
immense rice belt of northern Thailand, which was previously part of the area known as 'Lanna', which translates as
a million rice fields. This is not a poor area of Thailand by any means.
However, the people to this day are farmers and farmers tend to work long hours for their money and are,
therefore, careful with it. Lek's village was in a part of this rice belt that is the sole part of Thailand to
have three crops a year. Lek's family were doing quite well and their family was one of the richest in the
Educational facilities were not great in those early days, but most children were anxious to finish school as
soon as they could and start working with their dads. Particularly the boys, but lots of the girls too. Life was
slow in those days when rice was planted by hand and apparatus was pulled by buffaloes.
People worked from sunup to sundown, not only to make a living, but to make a good living. Some kids wanted to
go on to higher education, but without grants and sometimes with parents who could not see the point of an
education anyway, few ever made it.
Lek was the oldest of four children and she enjoyed school, but she too could not see where it would get her.
She came out of school at 16 years of age because her parents were reluctant to pay for her to go on, when she
could help out in the home and the fields.
Lek had moaned, although she agreed with her parents to a substantial extent, but she thought that if she was
going to work like her ancestors had, she may as well do it for her own family. Her own, new little family. So she
permitted a boy she had liked from school to make advances to her and they made plans to be married.
This was not a difficulty for either family or any of the parents and they had a wonderful marriage ceremony and
settled down to work for Lek's family for a wage. However, Lek's husband soon began to wish that he had waited a
while before getting married.
He was with one of the most beautiful girls in the village, but at 19 years of age, he still liked to get out
and be a lad, whereas Lek was getting broody. He often came home so drunk that he could not work on the farm the
next day; Lek's dad was complaining; Lek was complaining.
There were frequent scraps and bloody noses and it was getting out of hand. He often walked off for days at a
time and there were rumours of mistresses. Meanwhile, Lek's dad seemed to be getting ill.
He was diagnosed with diabetes and could not work for a couple of months. The family had savings, but not a
great deal and Lek's husband was nowhere to be seen. She thought of divorce and then her father died
That was to change her life dramatically.
'Behind the Smile' refers to the fact that Thailand is known the world over as 'The
Land of Smiles'.
by Owen Jones