There are events that happen occasionally while traveling that are destined to remain mysterious and unexplained.
It may be a chance encounter, a brush with fate, or something that brings to mind the Shakesperean quote from Hamlet, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
One memorable experience of mine belongs in the latter category.
On my second day in Bangkok following a 16-hour flight across the Pacific, I was walking down the street a few blocks from my guesthouse in the Sukhumvit District. I was still a bit woozy from jetlag and absorbed with the sights, sounds and smells of the street. I was maneuvering my way toward the skytrain when a well-dressed man approached me and asked for a moment of my time.
Something about him intrigued me, and I paused. He wrote down some information on two scraps of paper, crumpled them up, and placed them in my hand.
"Can you please tell me what your favorite number between one and five is? Also, what is your favorite flower?"
I don’t really have a favorite number or flower, so I just said the first things that came into my head.
He asked me to look at the papers crumpled in my fist. On one was scrawled the word “rose.” On the other scrap was the number three.
Okay, this is a little interesting. Creepy even. Well, it's possible that he got lucky. Three and rose would be reasonable guesses. Cool trick.
"You have two bad habits. One is that you cannot keep a secret. I will talk to you about this and your other bad habit if you give me $2,400 baht."
Even though I was new in Thailand, my inner currency converter quickly calculated that this amount was about $80. No way. I was not about to sacrifice my hard-earned trip money for him to tell me my bad habit and my secret that I cannot keep.
He then wrote something else on a scrap of paper and placed it in my hand.
"Now, can you please tell me the name of your mother.”
My mother was no longer living. But after I pointed this out to him, he indicated that it didn't matter. I told him the name of my mother and he asked me to open the scrap of paper in my hand.
To my astonishment, her name was written there.
I became just a bit weak-kneed after seeing this, but all I felt was a desire to flee. I gave him a few dollars for thoroughly impressing me and left. The thought lingered, however: just what else does this guy know about me?
I had prepared for many contingencies before this trip. Encountering a psychic clairvoyant was not one of them.
Welcome to Asia.