Thai Thoughts And Anecdotes Part 31
The year is 2504. Several years prior, 2492, Thailand had gone to auction. After 500 years of downward spiral; finally her social deportment was so dispiriting, her international debts so huge, and her internal affairs so chaotic that the United Nations Dept. of SCL (Sovereign Country Liquidation) had stepped in and taken over. Her population was neuterized and sent to the moon and Mars and Antarctica. Transvestites and Penguins. Who'd have thought it. Never say never. A prohibition was placed on human habitation of 100 years to allow field and stream and fauna to detoxify and to regenerate. At the United Nations auction held in Zurich no corporation or country made a bid on Thailand. Cooler heads prevailed and just went skiing. No one wanted her. So in a backdoor deal the United States purchased her from the UN auction factors.
To make her pay, in contradiction of the moratorium on human intervention; the United States let out contracts to Syria and Paraguay and France to use Thailand as a repository for international and domestic criminals they were harbouring. The new Muslim country of Islamia was allowed to set up military and other training facilities. Hollowed out mountains of the North were used to store nuclear waste and the islands of the South were turned into open pits that held incinerated domestic trash clinker from the United States. Orchids and daffodils and iris and gladiolus and crocus and tulips bloomed by the billions, former paddy buffalo roamed in giant happy herds, snakes slithered, monkeys screamed, birds flew, and fish jumped. But the appearance of paradise was simply patina on a rotten vase. You couldn't drink the water or grow food in the ground. Sweeping fires had laid waste to all the cities leaving the twisted steel and concrete and liquor bottle detrius of a failed society. In charge of all of this was an organizational genius and towering moral force known as Dana. From his administrative headquarters on the former wat hilltop temple between South Pattaya and Jomtien, he was charged with matters mundane and trivial. Answerable only to the United States he was legally just an accountant and a gatekeeper for a small far-away possession of the new Rome. But Dana was more than a man. He had the qualities of a God. And he had a dream. A dream for a new Thailand. And his dream was. . . . . . . . . . .
Oh man, I must have been sleeping and dreaming. I guess that is what happens when a non-drinker has two beers. What I really wanted to talk about was my experience at one of Thailand finest hotels–
To wit: THE ORIENTAL HOTEL
Early on in my visits to Thailand I decided that it would be interesting to visit the Oriental Hotel. You can't avoid reading about the damned thing. It is supposed to be the number one bestest hotel in the world, etc; blah, blah, blah. If you do a little research into the world of excessive and absurd overspending, you find out that there are some pretty spooky hotels in the world. Hotels in Hong Kong, and India, and Europe, and Indonesia, and the Mediterranean that are just foolish and stupid edifices of excess and luxury. So this Oriental Hotel in western BKK on the Chao Praya river must be something! So I take a taxi and go out there. And it is 'out there'. I do not want to say that the Oriental hotel is at the end of the world, but if you stand up on the hood of your taxi you can see the end of the world.
Arrival finds you on the shore of a river that is a sewer with boats and the surrounding abutting urban landscape is a monument to the social and architectural miasma of clutter and visual depravity that results from no zoning laws. Leaving the hotel grounds and walking a block in any direction is frightening for the pink-faced, big-nosed, big-feet, big-hands couples from Perth and Adelaide and Sydney. Stone-faced they traipse and wander and peek in at things and wonder when the fun will start. The men see nothing that looks sexy and the wives wonder where everyone goes to the bathroom. Located right next to a four star clothing boutique will be an elderly man in tattered shorts slicing open coconuts with a machete. Behind him, sprawled on the filthy concrete floor would be his grandchild–spawn of his bargirl daughter; eating fried roaches and staring big-eyed at the farangs. The hot, sweaty, overweight products of Australia wonder if this is what the brochures meant by the word 'exotic'. Later in a futile attempt to take control of the vacation 'experience' they will buy a historically incomprehensible and overpriced Buddha statue antique at the River City Shopping Centre. It will start out in the living room back home and then later migrate to the mudroom inside the door where it's Buddha hands will hold umbrellas and walking sticks. A straw gardening hat will perch on it's head.
As I go in the lobby of the Oriental Hotel on this harmless vacation experience of curiosity I realize I have made a big, big mistake. Big mistake. I am not dressed up enough. Apparently, no one at this hotel ever has any fun because no one is dressed in fun clothes. Not a pair of shorts or a backpack in sight. The women are all wearing fancy clothes and jewellery and perfume, and the men are all wearing fancy clothes and jewellery and cologne. Then there is me in my shorts and sandals and backpack. I look like an Israeli kubbitz worker here to meet my rich American sponsor. I stick out like a teenager's pimple on the end of a nose. It is only a matter of time before a lobby hotel employee will spot me and start the stalk. Next they will be in front of me and wanting to know what I am doing in the hotel. Their mouths will be smiling but their eyes will be dead. No way am I going to be allowed to just wander around and see the sights. Forget Plan A. Plan A for tourist Dana is DEAD.
So I find a giant chair in the lobby to hide in and to sit in and think in. I need a Plan B. And I need it fast. Think Dana–THINK. It took an HOUR to get here by taxi from the Nana Hotel and I am not going back without a struggle. Then I get an idea! I get up and go to the front desk and ask to speak to someone in hotel management in the Marketing division. An absolutely STUNNING young woman is sent out to speak to me. I explain to her that my rich, retired parents from America are considering coming to this hotel for a long vacation; but before making the commitment their attorney recommended that I be sent out ahead to see if it meets their standards. Could I please be given a comprehensive tour of the grounds and the facilities and any appropriate personnel on behalf of my parents? When in doubt, go the snob route! She goes for it.
In understandable English and with a smile that would melt Kryptonite, she says, "It would be my very great pleasure kind Sir." I am her slave. Well, we tour the public rooms and the grounds and the pool and the indoor and the outdoor restaurants. She shows me a room and explains the level of service. She introduces me to personnel in passing. She points out the hotel ferry service that takes quests across the river to the hotel's private spa. A finer example of Thai female femininity and female intelligence it would not be possible to find. And her selling skills and diplomacy skills on behalf of her employer are exemplary. Because of my close proximity to this angel from heaven and my anxious attempts to look as if I find everything she says riveting; I fail to notice that she has been 'touring' me in a circle and suddenly we are back at the front lobby door. She smiles, weis, and says, "Thank-you for touring with me kind Sir. The Oriental Hotel wishes to see you again." It is either a goodbye or I am being dumped. Hard to tell.
So, is the Oriental Hotel of Bangkok–Thailand a great hotel? Sure it is. It has all the big hotel features and benefits and a river view that is probably one of the most interesting landscape views in Thailand. But is the Oriental Hotel the number one hotel in the world? No way!
JUST CHILL OUT
It's been a long day for this farang. Last night was not exactly an orgasmic festival with Noi, so I started the day pondering the meaning of the word compromise. Then the shopping started. Out of the bedroom Noi feels the weight of obligation fall away and smells the heady aroma of free shopping. We buy shoes and sandals and overalls and underthings and strange gross foods at the supermarket. I am lugging a set of dishes in my backpack. Since I have never said "No" and have spent the day reflexively smiling, Noi is none the wiser. She thinks we are having a great time. She thinks me paying her money for the privilege of buying her things is my idea of a bargain. She is mistaken. I am not having a great time. I am being used and I know it. You do not abuse someone you value. All the cards are on the table now for anyone to see. It's time to stop the psychic bleeding and pull the plug. I am getting cranky. I look up and I can see the hotel. But between us and the hotel is a jewellery store. The tension starts to build. She doesn't deserve any more. She doesn't deserve any jewellery. She hasn't earned every smile she has received from me today. She is running a debit. It is time to take a stand. Sure enough, like a dog scenting a meat wagon; she steers for the store. In we go. She wants earrings. Gold earrings. I ask how much. They are just $5.00. She looks beautiful. She turns to me and flashes a megawatt smile and happy eyes. I decide to just chill out.
Well, I did it today. I made the call on the phone and spent the money and committed to the schedule and gave my boss the news. I am going to Stick land again in February. If I get any happier my head will explode. I have pledged to myself to eat clean for the next month and in another two weeks I will be hanging my stuff over a basket and shaving every thing in sight. Disney and I both believe in clean, attractive amusement parks. I am now officially not of this world here in the United States until my plane takes off. And if there are any problems I will tow the plane off the runway my damned self. I am just dwelling in a happy, immature limbo between now and when I leave. And on this trip I plan to put aside my own personal needs and wants and desires and personal opinions and just behave and react and think the way everyone else thinks I should. Not.
There is no God and Life has no meaning. We are insignificant carbon-based life forms inhabiting a useless rock hurtling through an indifferent space towards an unimportant future. We make no mark, we leave no memory, we hold on to no love, and we have no value. For the rational atheist life is a long cold train ride through a dark tunnel carrying no baggage. That is why the boardwalk saunter from the AA hotel in Pattaya down to Swenson's Ice Cream is the perfect antidote. As my rods and cones pick up the sparkling ocean on my right and the traffic and sidewalk vendors across the street on my left, I am inundated with incoming sensory data of the most trivial kind. I am on vacation. The hookers, trannies, nice girls, tourists, and women with baskets on their shoulders part around me like trout swimming upstream. Everyone is smiling. Philosophy is left behind. I am on vacation. I am wearing baggy weightlifting pants, sandals, lots of silver jewellery, and a T-shirt. I have left my self behind. I am on vacation. My veins are dilated and my stomach is flat and tight. My brain feels 19 again. I can feel the ground under my feet poking through my cheap foam sandals, the sun on my shoulders, and the ocean breeze on my face. I'm temporarily seduced. Maybe life does have value and there is a happy future. I'll give it some serious thought at Swenson's Ice Cream. I'm on vacation.
I'll send you all a mental postcard.
Crazy? Perhaps. Entertaining? Absolutely!