Yes, I live in Bangkok and yes I share my home with a kitten and yes I should be accustomed to all sorts of odors. But Chungking Mansions has every place I have ever lived in before beat--including the International Apartments in Seattle's China Town, which has served as a haven for old men for decades--every last one of them a heavy smoker.
I am very sensitive to scent and stench. If I were in Bangkok and encountered this odor, I would immediately go out and buy many, many wreaths of jasmine and an equal number of kaffir limes and a huge bunch of small and fragrant roses. But I'm in Kowloon and jasmine seems to be in short supply. Roses I am sure cost more than I can afford and kaffir limes are doubtless only in the area I have yet to explore where the Thai groceries are. (That would be tomorrow.)
I stared out my window at grey, mildewed concrete, airconditioners with their tops covered with garbage, and pipes festooned with hanging clothes that were presumably drying in the dirty, damp air. Being here in daylight, I realized, was not a good idea for me at all. I thought about the greenery that covers my balcony at home and I thought about my kitten who is a month older than when I last saw him and I wanted to go home.
But I have things to do in this part of the world and an airline ticket to Bangkok isn't an option for eight more weeks. As I sat and thought of scent, I suddenly remembered Lush at the subway stop near Alexandra House, on the other side of the water.
It's a quick trip from my part of Kowloon to Central and I was there in a matter of minutes, following my nose to a place where soap and its relatives are an art form. "My room smells like dirty socks." I told the sales girl, who turned pale and showed me many things that did not.
It was an expensive little outing for a person in my income bracket but I gleefully handed over what came to around 24oo baht (I don't want to tell how much soap that was in dollars) for sharp, clean scents that are going to make at least my tiny portion of CKM smell very good indeed. Therapy, as we all know, does not come cheap--unless you live in Bangkok where limes and jasmine and roses are thought of as necessities of life and everyone can afford to make their home smell good.