I didn't fully grasp the details or logic behind it, but it involved driving to a location in Bangkok where the abbot was hiding out, surrounded by his police guard. There was to be a meticulously organised publicity stunt lasting several days, designed to draw attention from the media and public. The dedicated monk needed to be recognised as a devout, sincere and generous person. That, I thought, was one hell of a task for anybody to take on, and deserved a medal for even trying.
Day one of the operation started with a long convoy of vehicles, all monk supporters, making a high-speed dash along motorways and byways of Bangkok to Ayutthaya. Kamol, wearing a uniform for a change, coordinated the spectacle, giving instructions to teams in about twelve police cars and drivers of seventy civilian vehicles. Thankfully, Mama chose to ride in the abbot's people carrier, making it easier for me to concentrate on being a good racing driver. A policeman moved down the row, lined up on a slip road outside a motorway service area, outlining requirements to civilian drivers. I opened the window, listened and nodded, clinging to every word but understanding only a few.
The officer finished babbling, stooped and looked in, seeming surprised at finding a farang behind the wheel. “Oh! You falang. Never mind. Okay, put on flashing indicators and main headlights. Stay very close to car in front. No gaps, understand?”
“No gaps. Like this.” He held his hands inches apart.
“Right,” I said, reckoning an almighty collision loomed ahead.
“And no stopping for anything. No worry about red lights, police take care. Okay?”
“Got it.” I closed the window and cracked my knuckles.
Flanked by police cars with screaming sirens, flashing lights and roof-mounted loudspeakers, the race began. With no regard for speeding traffic bearing down on us, we shot across carriageways into the fast lane. Kamol defiantly parked his Mercedes broadside across the motorway until every car in the convoy had caught up. I cringed at the sound of screeching brakes and honking horns as bewildered drivers swerved in all directions to avoid a pile up. I glanced at the speedometer, wondering if one hundred and ninety kilometres an hour was as far as the clock would go. Every few seconds someone ahead braked, red warning lights triggering a chain reaction resulting in the closest tailgating imaginable. The route involved negotiating narrow access lanes between toll booths at speed. The attendants stared in amazement as we whizzed through, toll free. A few hesitant drivers misjudged the width, sending orange traffic cones soaring skywards. At intersections, police cars forced exiting vehicles to stop, allowing us to overtake and screech round bends. Leaving the motorways, we hurtled through Bangkok's centre, its congested streets presenting a major challenge for the escorting police. Ear-splitting warnings over loudspeakers and frantic siren blasts sent motorbikes wobbling to kerbs and pedestrians scampering for their lives. Somehow we weaved through the chaos and gained the main road to Ayutthaya.
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