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Thailand has many unique aromas, some of which are pretty unforgettable and often linger with you for quite some time after you have left the original source of the smell. Few travellers to Thailand have arrived and left these shores without getting a nose full of the unique smell of Durian, a pungent fruit that unlike the natives, most westerners can’t stand as it tastes rather like the taste you would imagine a rotting corpse might provide. However it is not just Durian that gives off a powerful and fairly offensive odour, the rotting yellow fruit of a cashew nut tree, often found splattered all over the roads in the right season is also quite offensive as is the smell of Jack fruit when it has first been through the digestive system of a macaque monkey.
Other interesting smells include the choking, eye watering, throat stinging kind coming from woks around the place as enthusiastic cook’s brown off spices. This is often experienced as temporary blindness as you drive past a restaurant doing 50 kilometres an hour on a bike. I am not sure what Agent Orange felt like but one has to imagine this is a watered down version of it.
Other aromas that come from food include the highly popular ‘roof fish’ a lovely, if not slightly unnerving pong that comes from old fish and squid left to dry in the sun on a hot tin roof, and bins outside even the most upmarket hotels. Food scraps in black or green plastic bins then left to heat up to over 60 degrees in the hot sun are a great source of highly concentrated nose candy for those who enjoy sniffing things that make hairs grow on your chest.
Of the non- food variety but available in most Thai accommodation is the ‘musty cupboard’ smell that lingers in the corners of every Thai home, an interesting aroma with rich mould tones, combined with stagnant water and at touch of cat urine and wet nappies can be enjoyed by swinging open the door of any storage area that has not been used for a couple of weeks. If you are tired with crisp white linen then a few weeks in any of these cupboards will ensure you can relax in off white Egyptian cotton mixed with large, suspicious looking yellow stains.
The drains in Chaweng offer another unique opportunity to make yourself want to gag. The wafts of raw sewerage combined with petrol spillage and tons of laundry water from hotels and laundry outlets and rotting chip fat combine here to make a unique fragrance indeed.
Another smell that often leaves one wishing they had never left the shores of their mother country is the one that pervades from the WC facilities found at any random bus journey resting stop, this is rather acidic and acrid smell that leaves you wondering if you will ever have hairs in your nostrils again. When you combine this heavenly toilet experience with no running water or lavatory paper the smell can stay with you for the remainder of your journey.
Another great smell can be found on soi and beach dogs. The beach dog experience combines dirty wet dog hair and smelly old squid and rotting fish, not for the faint hearted! The soi dog experienced is a heady combination of that same old wet, dirty dog hair but this time blended with the stomach juices and excrement of buffalo. For an additional ‘hit’ it is good to find dogs who are also suffering with mange! Our canine friends offer a concentrated version of these smells during rainy season when simply brushing past one will ensure you remember your encounters sometimes for weeks afterwards.
When you are in a bar shoving your face in the rather damp beer condom is another great way to enjoy the smells of the area. Half-heartedly washed and dried beer holders often come with uriney cat wet smells and the familiar smell of a very dirty hand towel which can also be found on – well – the hand towel if there is one in these establishments.
But by far the best smell to be had in Samui is the overpowering one found within 2 miles of the landfill site in Hua Thanon, this brew has been marinating in the sun for nearly a decade and is perhaps the most lingering smell of all the fragrances to be found here, the pools of putrid, toxic green water are surely a must visit attraction for any intrepid traveller who wants to excite his nasal passages in a unique and unforgettable way.