Thai Thoughts And Anecdotes Part 50
Thai Thoughts And Anecdotes 50
THE THAI HOTEL EXPERIENCE–STRATEGIES AND STORIES
Oh, that I was rich and that life was perfect. The first change in my hotel experiences in Thailand would be that I could afford to stay in fantastically luxurious, efficiently managed hotels where everything was right or went right or got fixed right immediately. A hotel like the Marriot on 2nd road in South Pattaya for example: a hotel that I have snuck into numerous times to sit by the pool or to exchange money at the front desk, or to admire the antiques and the furnishings in the lobby or to admire the architectural and landscaping designs on the grounds, or to escape the heat and the noise and the over-population of Beach road. This is my dream hotel. I'll bet in this hotel the maids never forget to put the Snickers chocolate bar in the minifridge. I'll bet in this hotel the pool boy has a masters degree in Poolology. I'll bet in this hotel a request from me is met with a Prussian salute and the dispatching of smiling minions on a mission of customer service that would put to shame the smiling of Stalin's generals. I'll bet in this hotel I'd have too many towels, I'd have more than enough light to read, no one would knock on my door when I was naked or in the tub or sleeping, service staff would wei and smile at my companion of the moment and mean it when they did it, the tub would drain without making end-of-the-world sucking noises, there would be hot water on command, the air conditioning would be able to be turned OFF so that my balls didn't shrink to the size of BB's, the door and window locks would work, the sliding closet doors would not be jammed in the tracks, and my complimentary newspaper (complimentary my ass–I paid for it) would be there when I opened the door! But alas, these hotels cost money that I do not have and that I never will have. I am a poor man so my hotel experiences in Thailand have been different and because of that I have had to develop some policies and procedures and methods and theories and guerilla tactics to get through the hotel experience. To wit:
1. French Balcony Doors
Sometimes I can't remember where I have been and it is kind of a bummer because I would like to go back. The first year I was in Thailand I ended up in a small town somewhere between Bangkok and Sangkhla Buri on the Khao Laem Reservoir near the Burma border. The bus stop cross roads market was pretty nice and had some infrastructure and there was a big river with high fast water and a formal riverside park. The mountains rose right up behind the town. Lovely. Would like to go back. No idea where I was. The people were very friendly. Delightful experience. Transforming. The kind of out-of-body peaceful experience that makes you want to marry one of the happy, fat local woman and spend the rest of your days helping her with her backyard catfish farm. This was before the beginning of the sex tourist part of my Thailand experience. A brief look at the pleasures and charms of rural Thailand and the ‘real' Thailand before I got diverted. I am not really a very needy guy sexually. If I had never stumbled across the sex tourist scene of lower Sukhimvit road I'd have been content to have had all of my Thai experiences rural experiences. But discovering the sex scene of lower Sukhimvit road was like discovering a road with $100 bills laying on it. Only a fool wouldn't lean over to pick up the bills. So I got diverted. Anyway, a short walk out of town was a nicely developed small hotel that didn't look like a hotel. Built in a cul-de-sac with a view of the mountain and under a forest of trees it was pretty and peaceful. You had to walk up a set of steps to get to your door. Then inside the door was a little landing, then another set of steps with another little landing and the bathroom, and then another couple of steps and you were in the big room. Window view of the mountain and double French doors that opened onto a balcony. The wonderful thing about the double French doors was that you could perform the choreography of the rich–placing both hands on the handles and throwing them open–as if you were at your Table mountain villa in South Africa with a view of Capetown, or you were half way up a mountain slope in Hong Kong with a view across the harbor to Macau, or you were in your chalet in Switzerland with a high altitude view of meadows and bell clanking cows. French doors have a panache and power and sex appeal that other doors don't have. Bracing one foot against the floor and trying to open a jammed aluminum slider is just not the same. Admittedly, my view was a little less dramatic–just a small unprepossessing Thai mountain, but for a poor man like me the physical act of opening the doors and stepping out to the view was wonderful. Windows and balcony surrounded by ivy and flora and chirping birds. Cross ventilation and no need for air conditioners. Lovely. Absolutely lovely and enchanting. Sometimes when the sex tourist part of my life in Thailand gets me down I look back on that small no-name town and hunger for the experience. Someday I'll probably end up back in that town surrounded by young Israeli and German backpackers who feel sorry for the old man who they think has never had sex. Already been there kids. Now I just want to look at the mountain and listen to the birds.
Anyway, one night I was coming back around 2 in the morning. Barefoot. Alone. Very quiet in my actions. Operating the key in the lock and passing through the door and padding up the stairs I made hardly a sound. Three steps into my pitch black dark room I SMASHED into the naked chest of a young strong Thai male. He vaulted the bed and flew through the open French doors and hurled himself over the rail. Because of my small stature and my damaged heart and my complete inability to defend myself; I have to be very careful to avoid any sort of physical confrontation. I have already been in the backs of ambulances twice and that's enough for a lifetime. Smashing into that half naked, young, strong Thai male in the pitch dark nearly dropped me. I was almost frightened to death. I ended up on my knees leaning against a wall feeling the aorta in my chest clamping down and begging god to kill me instantly rather than gift me a stroke that would rob me of dignity and hope. I awoke three hours later on the floor with my cheek in a puddle of drool and my eyes crusted shut. After that I learned to lock French doors that opened onto balconies. Door stops, rods, boards, tying door knobs together with rope, moving furniture to block the doors; whatever it takes–no one is getting into my room through a French door unless they have C-4 plastique and a battering ram. Live and Learn. I guess the gentleman I smashed into that night in my room was just in the wrong room by accident. Sure. . .
2. Phone Calls
I have a perfect record in all Thai hotels. Never once have I been able to use the room phone to make an outside call. I read the outgoing calls directions that are on the laminated sheet in the end table drawer next to the bed or the directions on how to make outgoing calls that are in the big fancy hotel features and benefits and services book with the intensity of an Egyptian archeologist trying to decipher clay tablets. I ask others for help. I take notes. Can't do it. I just accept this failing in me and pay others to make calls for me or save my calls until I get to the AA Hotel in South Pattaya and then I have Anna the tour director make calls for me. She does it on her cell phone standing in the middle of the soi to get better reception. I sit on the hotel steps hoping against hope that she is doing the call correctly. Often she has these long, long conversations of complexity and emotion. Then hangs up, looks at me and says, "She not there!" Since I have never made one call from a room phone I tell myself (delude myself) that I have a spiky intelligence. In other words, I am very good at some things and completely non-competent at other things–sort of like Einstein. You wouldn't say Einstein was unintelligent just because he couldn't throw the javelin. Well hotel phones are my javelin. In the Nana hotel opposite the gift shop is a bank of phones that bargirls and farangs are always on. I have looked at these phones. I have read all the instructions. But I have never bought a phone card at the lobby counter because I just know instinctively that it is beyond me. I read about farangs that make phone calls and do wire transfers and go to ATM machines (never once–know I can't do it) and do various exotic computer things in internet places. I feel like I am reading about the exploits of gods.
As a corollary to this: Since I can't make phone calls on the room phone I make sure no one else can make phone calls either by unhooking the phone or taking the guts out of the handset. Let the maids use someone else's phone to call their relatives in Hat Yai.
3. Sliding Closet Doors
In many hotels that I stay in, the concept of maintenance is a farang idea. Once something is built, that's it–it is never maintained or repaired–ever. The sliding closet doors are always jammed in their tracks. I actually use the closets. I like to make the room my home. So I unpack everything and set up a home. But the sliding closet doors that are always jammed are a real screamer. So I take them out. This ain't that easy. But it's a personal project and out they come. At one hotel the maids kept reinstalling them. I would take them out at night and the next day when I got back at around 4pm they would be reinstalled. It is difficult to reinstall these awkward heavy doors in the messed up channel tracks. Eventually, I felt so sorry for them that I stopped taking them out. Beaten again! Thailand.
4. Interior Chain Locks
Almost every hotel door in Thailand has an interior sliding chain lock. There is a toggle and chain attached to the door jamb and a channel track attached to the door. The toggle fits in the channel track and allows you to open the door about 3 inches but no one can get in. This is particularly necessary in some of the cheaper places because often the lock mechanism on the door handle is faulty or someone with a credit card can simply slide it between the door jamb and the latch and the door will open. So the sliding chain lock gives you that extra protection you need. Or does it? Do this. Tell your girlfriend to stand in the hall. Close the door and engage the sliding chain lock. Now open the door 3 inches and tell your girlfriend that you will pay her fifty baht if she can get the toggle out of the slide. You will watch in horror and fascination as her long supple Thai fingers snake around the door like two baby cobras and start fiddling with the toggle and chain in the slide. Not always, but sometimes she can pop the toggle right out of the channel. You will shit the first time you see this. You won't be able to do it with your thick, arthritic, sausage shaped fingers; but any bargirl or katoey or maid can get in your room!
My father traveled the world on business and was often in dodgy places (Egypt, Beirut, etc). He used to carry a rubber door stop with him and kick it under the door before he went to sleep. I thought he was nuts. Now I do it.
This is really about other peoples television sets. Many people, and the best example in the world are the Thais, do not understand that the volume knob on the TV set is a volume adjustment knob. The Thais and others (read: Germans) turn on the TV and then turn the sound up to maximum volume. God only knows how loud it is in their room. One can only guess. But you can hear the noise all the way down the hall or in your room because it is coming right through the wall. I take earplugs to Thailand for this reason. Twice when the occupants have left the door open because they were going to the pool I have snuck into the room and disabled the TV by cutting off the plug. I think with Thais this loud TV thing must be inherited. A couple of hundred years ago when the Burmese were sweeping through the Three Pagoda Pass I imagine all the Thai families in the villages turning up the TVs to maximum volume to scare off the Burmese war elephants. It's probably one of those chromosome things by now.
6. Hot Water Shower
There is hot water because it was heated somewhere else and then sent through a pipe to the nozzle and then there is hot water that is heated by one of those electricity gizmos that is attached to the wall near the shower head. Or something. I'm no plumber. Or electrician. But I do know about the importance of ground wires and electricity. Unless I have personally installed or personally witnessed the installation or have a notarized statement from God; I am not turning on one of those shower electricity things while standing in a pool of water. Because of this personal point of view (read: heart stopping paranoia)–I end up taking no showers or cold showers in rural Thailand. Fine with me! It's amazing how your behavior can change.
7. Exterior Windows
Call me paranoid if you want but I always open the window and look outside to see how the building was constructed. I once looked outside a window and there was a ledge that connected every single window. Anyone could climb outside their window, walk down the ledge and then climb in my window. Makes you wonder if the architect was a former burglar. Got so spooked by the architectural incompetence that I moved out the next day.
8. Water Pumps
Often when you finally arrive at your hotel after being beat up on planes and trains and buses you are too tired to check the water pump. What water pump? Well, in some hotels the water pressure is so bad from the main source that water pumps are installed under the sink. I guess that is what they are called. Hey, I'm not a plumber but that is what other people call them. There is a wonderful five floor boutique hotel on lower Sukhimvit road that is becoming a cult favorite but you always have to check the pressure in the bathrooms. The pumps has been broken for two years (three years, four years) but it always comes as a complete surprise to the staff.
I know this sounds nuts but in some really really crummy places I check the wall mounted big mirrors. Wall mounted big mirrors in these cheap places make no economic sense. Well gee, I wonder what I could be checking for. I'm checking to see that they are not mirrors that have a camera on the other side. If I can't see behind the mirror or take the mirror off the wall I hang something over the mirror. Think I'm crazy? Really? Now you'll do it.
10. Water Bottles
My bargirl friend showed me this. In some hotels the minifridge bottled water is free. In other hotels it is a charged item. Noi showed me how to fill up the empty bottles from the bathroom tap and then put the caps back on and then put the bottles back in the minifridge so that I did not get charged for them. The cap part is the part requiring artistry. You need experienced bargirl instruction for this. Another reason I am sad that Noi and I couldn't make the relationship work. The woman was a genius at thrift. She'd have made a great money saving wife.
11. Other Rooms
Other hotel rooms are where you find the stuff that should have been in your room in the first place. Like what? Like:
The Snickers chocolate bar that was supposed to be on the back shelf of the minibar but wasn't.
The rest of the coat hangers–your room had two.
Tub plugs–in other years you have done the capable man thing and tried to make plugs out of various stuff found in the room but it never works.
Lamps–some rooms have so little light you can't read
Toiletry items–soap, bubble bath, shower cap (girls use them), etc.
Bed Spreads–one night in Chiang Mai it was so cold I had to grab another one of those incredibly heavy quilted bedspreads–Pooms ass puts out heat like a nuclear reactor but still it was a three dog night.
This skulking around while the maids are doing the rooms and all of the doors are open always terrifies me. I am not an accomplished or casual doer of marginal deeds. If I tried to hold up a chicken with a squirt gun there would instantly be police helicopters with searchlights and bullhorns and high powered searchlights over me. My heart is in my white ass farang throat when I am just trying to get an extra towel. I don't endorse stealing; however, if I am paying for towels or Snickers bars or light bulbs or coat hangers I should have them. Now some of you are saying why don't I just go to the front desk and explain the situation and request the missing items. Dear god you are innocent. This is Thailand. If you go to the front desk and make a simple request you enter Hell. I once requested a bar of soap. The smiling-charming-attractive front desk beauty handed me a bunch of coat hangers. It's just easier to skulk around like an international jewel thief and solve your own problems.
12. Window Locks
Often the window locks in the ubiquitous aluminum sliding windows don't work. I either find a piece of wood or I buy a dowel and wedge it between the window frame and the middle sash frame. This is a must in quest houses and first floor units. I never stay on the first floor unless I have to. Third floor or above. I know Thais don't steal because they are all Buddhists and they live in the Land of Smiles but people who look a lot like Thais are committing a lot of burglaries and filling up the prisons. Sometimes I bring a hand drill and a carbide tipped bit and a finish nail from home. Drill a hole through the middle aluminum post. Insert nail. Secure!
The particular problem with towels if you are making the acquaintance of bargirls is that they never want any towel other than a brand new unused towel. And they always need at least two big towels. So lets do the math. One day: Two towels times two girls plus your towels equals never enough towels. If it was just me on vacation in the Aleutian islands as part of a UN sponsored program to count booby birds; one towel would be enough. I'm sleeping alone. But in Thailand depending on how frisky you are feeling people can be coming and going with bewildering rapidity. I keep a journal but sometimes at night I can't remember all the names. Hence the constant towel shortage. You can get more towels by:
Bribing the maids
Begging the maids
Stealing off the maids cart
Swiping from the maids supply station
This is a problem you have to solve! Not enough towels for Miss Nat or Miss Poo or Miss Jo means that you are losing points.
14. Bed Problems
You check into a hotel and you are thrilled that they have a room. You are dead dog tired and couldn't possibly walk another step or check out another hotel. You are so relieved and so grateful that you almost burst into tears. Into the room, shut the door, two steps forward; and then you notice that the room has two single beds. You had plans that night and they did not include having you and Pim or Pae or Pa or Pob or Poo or Poom or Ple or Pod sleeping in one bed while you sleep in the other bed. And sliding the beds together doesn't help because the legs are mounted on wheels so that the maids can move them around. So you slide the desk chair over to the curtains and take down the curtain ropes and use them to tie the beds together.
Later that night you and Ping find out even that is not enough. So in the middle of the night the two of you are on the floor bent over double helping each other slide the leg wheels out of the sockets. Two naked people engaged in slightly conspiratorial activity. Then it's back up on the bed and banging away like rabbits. And people ask me why I like to go to Thailand. Ping was the greatest. Miss you Ping!
15. Front Desk Business
It is not generally known and it is never advertised but in many small hotels the girls at the front desk are running a private business. On the other side of the door behind the lobby counter that you never notice is an ironing board and sometimes they have access to a hotel washing machine and dryer. Need something done immediately or in an hour or in two hours? Go to the front desk. Fast service. Cheap. Smiles. They keep the money.
16. Morning Newspapers
I am a reading junkie. Love newspapers. In some hotels part of the service is the free delivery of the morning newspaper outside your door. Hearing the Bangkok Post slam down outside the door early in the morning is a happy sound. Sometimes, however, when you open the door there is no paper. So you crouch down and duck waddle down to the next door and swipe his paper. You do the duck waddle so that no one can see you through their peepholes. You knew that. This is definitely war zone behavior. Because the penalty for getting caught could be death. If I ever get caught it won't be by some little guy like me–but some thick bodied guttural German who will throw me around like a rag doll. Nearly everything in the Land of Smiles scares the shit out of me including getting the morning paper.
17. Hiding Money
I am less and less persuaded that hotel lock boxes are a good idea so I have become an expert at hiding money in the room. I take the shower rod down and insert rolls of baht. I cut the centers out of foam cushions. I tear up carpet. I pull off floor moldings. My dad was an experienced world traveler. His mantra was:
Trust No One
All People Are Scum
The World Sucks!
Ah Dad, what a gentle soul. But no one ever robbed him. He never had to call home and tell mom to wire him more money because some guy in a turban got the drop on him. I hate to break the news to the politically correct, anorexic, youthful, big talking travelers of Khao San road but successful travel is when you don't have adventures. Stories about
Mis-connections (plane, train, bus, boat)
are the signs of failure. My dad never failed.
A critical addenda to hiding money in your room is to leave a coded note in plain sight like the bathroom mirror or the luggage or the TV that reminds you where you hid the money. To remember that you have hidden 10,000baht in the shower rod of room 406 at the Nana Hotel as your plane is descending into Chiang Rai is not an experience that you want to have. Remember, it is only a vacation if you are not having any adventures.
18. Tipping Maids
I am one of those guys who believes that tips should be earned; not part of some general scheme of extortion regardless of the level of service. I am not tight with my money, but I believe that currency should only change hands in exchange for goods and services according to some mutually agreed upon system of rules and expectations. However, I completely ignore all of this western logic and order and intelligent mumbo jumbo when it comes to the floor maids. I tip the floor maids pretty much on sight. In the morning I tip any maid I meet and smile. I am not really a good smiler, but when tipping the maids I smile like a ferret looking at a budgie. I do this as insurance. I want them to like me. I want them to tell each other that I have a good heart. I want them to smile at me when they see me coming. If I am holding food I offer it to them. I tell them they are pretty. I make them laugh. I keep my arms and my hands down and offer no reason for them to be nervous. I talk low. More smiling. More tipping. Constantly. Every day of my stay.
Let them plant drugs in some one else's room for the police. I'm on vacation!
Cultivating the friendship of the maids on your floor is cheap insurance. On every floor the maids have a place where they get together for lunch and eat communally. If I am going to be in the hotel for a while I always find out where this place is. Then I ‘accidentally-on-purpose' bump into them holding a big bag of expensive pastries and deserts. I hand it all out. In the Nana hotel the maids eat in the stairwell between the floors. I make it a point to ‘accidentally' bump into them in the stairwell. Many suay maaks from me and many smiles from them. I go to the Greenhouse on Sukhimvit that has absolutely mouth watering fancy desserts. I fill up a bag. I hand it all out. Insurance.
19. Picture Hiding
There are two kinds of junkies in Thailand. There is you. You can't get enough of the girls who say they "love you too much". And there are the bargirls who love to have their picture taken. They are picture junkies. So you are going to buy a cheap camera and run through rolls of film and show the developed pictures to Golp or Teek or Loot or Ip. Sounds great, right! Be careful. Be very careful. Death stalks you when you least expect it. If your current love bunny finds pictures of another woman in your luggage you are now involved in a life or death issue. This only happened to me once. It will never happen again. I haven't got the strength to survive the emotional onslaught of an enraged bargirl twice in my life. I'm simply not man enough. A mentally deranged bargirl 4'6" tall and weighing 40 kilos has the negative life extinguishing energy of an imploding star. If I ever end up going through this again I know I will just sink to my knees and beg God to kill me. You have to either destroy the pictures one girl at a time as you cycle through your vacation or mail them back to your home address one girl at a time or put them in the hotel safe or hide them in the secret compartment in your luggage that you sliced open with a razor blade. Try and remember. You don't want to die. Hide the pictures.
20. Domestic Bliss
If you have managed to stumble into Paradise and glom onto a woman who likes you she will turn your hotel room into an approximation of a typical Thai house. She will wash clothes in the sink and then hang them up in front of the air conditioning vent in the wall or outside the window. She's happy. Leave her alone.
21. Potted Plants
If I know I am going to be staying in a place for a long period of time I really like to make the room look homey. So I will buy cheap posters or weavings or tapestries to put on the walls and I will probably move the furniture around to better suit my purposes and I will get as many potted plants as I can. You need to find the hotel two-wheeler for the plant thing and you have to move the plants around 4:30 in the morning. What plants? Why the hotel's plants of course! Plants from poolside or second floor and above lobby spaces, etc. Put a towel over the plant you are moving. DO NOT GET CAUGHT. This one is really hard to explain to management and security people. If caught it actually helps that Thais think all farang are crazy. Once the plants are in your room you are home free. "The plants were there when I moved in Mr. Hotel Manager."
I don't leave wallets and money and jewelry and cameras and fancy gifts in sight in my room–other farangs do–I think it is foolish. In theory I ought to be able to do this because the hotel room is my abode. But one way to show respect for others less fortunate is to not ask them to resist temptation. So I pack things away or hide them. It is kind of not so much fun me but I think it is an important compromise. Plus, having something of value ‘disappearing' and then having to pursue the matter is not something you want to be a part of your vacation experience. So I tip the maids at every opportunity and make sure flashy stuff is under wraps.
I love the AA hotel in Pattaya–it is my home away from home in Pattaya but nothing is perfect. There are not enough lamps and lights in the rooms. It is so dark even with all the lamps and lights on that I can't read. I like to read. Apparently, Thais don't read in their own homes otherwise they would design these hotels rooms with enough artificial light. Now some politically correct bonehead is going to email me and tell me this is their culture and I don't understand it because I am a western insensitive idiot. Wrong Pancho. This is not culture–this is not enough lights in the hotel rooms. Now normally, in another hotel I would solve this problem by skulking around on whatever floor the maids are working on and swiping a lamp from another room. And I have done this in the past. But the notion of getting caught makes me too nervous. I do not want to get thrown out of the AA hotel or spend the next 30 years being a butt target in some Thai prison because I was trying to grab an extra lamp. So I go out to Big Mikes Shopping Mall and buy lamps and higher wattage light bulbs and extension cords. I have in the past tried to get these items at the front desk but it was impossible. I could teach a chicken to blow a trumpet faster than I could teach the front desk staff at a Thai hotel the concept of customer service or god forbid; making the customer happy. So off I go to buy stuff. In the beginning this used to piss me off but now it doesn't even bother me. I just consider it part of the Thai vacation experience. Besides, the retail shop girls in Big Mikes Shopping Plaza are all knee tremblers. So if you are walking down Beach street in Pattaya one day and you see a farang walking up the street holding lamps and light bulbs–it's me. Say hello. I just got into Pattaya a couple of hours ago and I am happy.
24. The Key
In some or most or all hotels you are supposed to turn in the room key before you leave the building. No way am I going to do that. This isn't really a problem. They don't chase me down Sukhimvit demanding the key. But the key comes attached to a big plexiglass thing–sort of a clear plastic translucent rectangular stick. I hate going in to bars trying to look cool with that big stupid goober key thing sticking out of my pants. You might as well just attach a flashing neon sign to your head that says "Cheat me–Rob me–Overcharge me. I'm an idiot tourist". So I take the plastic stick that has the room number on it off and attach the key to my belt with a long string. Way more cool. It is much more convenient and in the event of coma or robbery or accident no one knows the number of my room.
25. Bathroom Door Knob
This is critical. Using the same screwdriver that you used to take down the shower rod to hide money; you are going to now take the bathroom door knob completely out of the door until the door has a big hole in it where the door knob was. Unscrew the set screw, take off the knob and push on the shaft. Then take off the cover plates and take out the latching mechanism. Why are you doing this? You are doing this so that your bargirl friend who you are paying for can not lock herself in (and lock yourself out of) the bathroom. Remember, they just want the money and they do not want to provide the service. Their first trick is to disappear into the bathroom. The shower they are taking does not include you. Bet you'd like to be in there with her wouldn't you. In fact, you kinda figure that you are paying for it. Well, she locked the door. So you paid the bar and later you are supposed to pay her to lock you out of your own bathroom while she is in there taking a shower. Or she disappears into the bathroom (and of course locks the door) to make cell phone calls. You have now lost 100% control of this part of your life. You are paying the bar and later you are supposed to pay her to lock you out of your own bathroom while she calls her other clients up and sets up more appointments. You are sitting on the edge of the bed, your sex life a deflated balloon–failing at this too–being jerked around by someone who isn't your equal. Someone who has no more regard for you than a bucket of bugs. And you are already starting to make up and rehearse the stories you are going to tell back home in Edmonton or Madrid or Gdansk about the sex adventure vacation (that wasn't). Throw out the bargirl that's in the bathroom now and when she is gone get down on your knees and TAKE OUT THE DOOR KNOB. I have left a trail of big holes in bathroom doors all over Thailand because I got sick of taking shit from bargirls who thought they were going to get money for nothing. If you check into a hotel in Thailand and there is no doorknob on the bathroom door–Dana Was There!
26. Gift Shop Ladies
The Gift Shop ladies in hotels are a resource that you want to mine. In all hotels I make it a practice to use the gift shop daily and to learn the names of the ladies and ask them about their kids, etc. Invariably they have been working in the shop for ten to twenty years. They know EVERYTHING. Goods and services that don't appear in the shop can magically appear for you. Problems or misunderstanding with hotel management can magically go away. Discounts not received in hotel vendor stores can magically appear. Lovely girls can be made to knock on your door. Hotel taxi fares can magically drop to market rates. More cooperation with the hotel tour booking service can magically appear. These hotel gift shop ladies are the underpaid unappreciated nameless faceless poor serving the rich. Pay attention to them. It can pay dividends. In the Nana hotel the gift shop ladies are sisters. They recognize me by now. It's a good thing.
27. Pool Strategy
I am not a pool or beach person. I think it is because I have so little body fat. Laying in the sun makes me too hot. However, if I can find a shady spot I'm in. So I will make a pool inspection when I check into a hotel to see if I can move furniture around to make my own little shady grove. Sometimes I will go down to the pool late at night after the maids and the pool guys have finished putting the pool area to bed for the night. Then I will move furniture and plants and umbrella stands around to make my own special place. Then I go down in the morning with my books and magazines and extra towels and glasses etc. and settle into my little pool apartment At the Nana hotel there is a new pool and in the corner is a big potted tree. On the way into the pool I grab four extra towels. I slide one of those incredibly heavy chez lounge chairs over and shove it under the tree. Then I take the four towels and spread them out in the branches of the tree. Add another side chair and a table and all of my poolside gear and you have a little apartment. Laying in the chez lounge chair under the tree in the corner of the pool with my glasses on reading is the height of luxury. And I have declared it my territory. I can leave and come back and no one has messed with my stuff. And if you have a Miss Poo or Noi or Jaeb or Yui or Pa or Fung or Mae or Miss Leek to share this space with you it's even better. You are like two rich people on your own private island under the Mediterranean sky. When I was younger I didn't have the patience for poolside culture, the blood raced too fast in my veins. But now that I am older and less frantic about filling every hour of my life to the max–poolside culture is starting to have appeal.
28. Maids on the Game
Years ago I was staying in a down market hotel in Kanchanaburi. Well, I say down-market as a sop to the more well heeled readers of this site. I thought it was pretty nice. One day I was walking down the hall to my room. Coming the other direction was a maid. I smiled at her. She smiled back I smiled in a more friendly way. She returned the smile in a more womanly way. More smiling. More walking towards each other. Now, I am not the brightest guy in the world but sometimes you just get a feeling. As we met I smiled in a very, very non-threatening happy accessible way and said "Boom Boom?". She nodded yes. Into my room and we fucked like bunnies. It turned out that all the maids in the hotel were on the game. By the time I checked out my dick looked like a piece of shredded tree bark. My policy on maids in hotels is that I never ever solicit them unless it is abundantly obvious that they are on the game–and then I never say no.
Normally, I come to Thailand every six months. However, due to the vagaries and instabilities of the United States job market and my own inadequacies I frequently am laid off, fired, unemployed or have quit my job. Then I have the opportunity to come to Thailand for longer periods of time. It's called making lemonade out of lemons. Early on I got a piece of fantastic information from one of those elderly lounge lizards that you see in almost all hotels. He turned me on to the fact that almost all hotels offer substantial room rate discounts for long stays. Discounts so substantial that they make all other forms of housing obsolete. You can brag about the little guesthouse on the klong in the native quarter with the pet chicken and the jazz collection available to the guests, but I am getting all that plus ten times more for the SAME rate. The hotels never advertise that long term guest discounts are available. This is how you work it. First you make friends with the lounge lizards. This may take a few days. They are territorial and not necessarily quick to include someone new in their group. Then you get them to help you by telling you what they are paying and how they did it. Ideally one of the group is a kind of ringleader with a long term relationship with the hotel and he will go to the hotel manager with you and help you negotiate the thing. This is positively the best housing deal in the Kingdom!
30. Snickers Bars
I've just checked into the AA Hotel in South Pattaya and right away I notice that the Snickers Bar is missing from the mini-fridge. This is a AA Hotel staple. My normal diet for a 10 day trip to Thailand is Viagra, nitric oxide, yohimbine, bottled water, brazed chicken, and gelato ice cream–so the Snickers bar at the AA Hotel is a real treat and something I look forward to. It is missing and I couldn't help but notice when opening my door that my across-the-hall neighbor is one of those low class Germans who come to Thailand directly from work still wearing their mechanics and machinists uniforms. These mid-thirties, overweight European fools with their bald heads and their puffy bodies and their 24 hour Thai girlfriends are the worst. They are now invading the AA Hotel like toredo worms in the hull of a ship and I'll bet dollars to donuts that this friend of the Kaiser snuk across the hall and stole my Snickers bar. It is just a part of the German personality makeup; they can't actually help themselves. A dog can't pass a solitary tree without pissing on it and a working class German in a Thai hotel can't resist committing minifridge Snickers Bar thefts. That is probably the real reason Hitler invaded Russia. He was trying to get Stalins Snickers Bar. And this is the reason the Russians fought with such courage and brilliance and conviction during World War II. Historians say it was to protect hearth and home and out of love for mother Russia. I think it was to protect their Snickers Bars. I know how they feel.
For years I made my twice annual pilgrimages to the AA Hotel and did not even know that the minifridges even had Snickers Bars (choc-o-lots) in them. Then one day I happened to be down on all fours at the base of the bed (don't ask) and I thought while I was down there that I would multitask and open the minifridge door. I was stunned, astonished, and flabbergasted to see that in the back of the fridge was a little shelf and there lying on the shelf was a Snickers Bar. This is like stepping outside the backdoor at night to take a whiz and discovering a naked women in the tulip bed. Life changed for me. In my real life my diet is so strict (Read: just shoot me) that a ‘choc-o-lot' is beyond imagination. But on vacation, well. . . . . ! The next thing I had to learn is that the Snickers Bars are distributed according to a strict, never changing, set in stone schedule that no amount of coaxing or charming or begging can change. When I come back from an all day beach and boating trip to Ko Lan island the air conditioning and the ambience of the room and the wall to wall carpet is divine. The maids have finished making up the room and the sodas and chips and beers have been replaced in the fridge. But the Snickers Bar is never there. For years I thought they had forgotten and so off I would go to track down the maids and get my choc-o-lot. No go. Forget about it. Ain't gonna happen. I would be informed in the most beguiling, most charming manner that the choc-o-lots were coming. An hour and a half later there would be the shy knock (did I hear something?) and I would open the door to see the Snickers Bar maid. This it turned out was a specially trained, task dedicated maid who delivered Snickers Bars with the seriousness of a government train shipping plutonium. She wouldn't give it to me, but had to come in the room (hey honey, I'm kinda naked here) and personally put it on the shelf. Then something had to get checked off on her clipboard. And no amount of baht flashing would get a second choc-o-lot out of her. She had her orders and no farang was going to corrupt her. I have been dealing with this maid for years. She always arrives around 5:30 (I have been waiting since 4:15). She has one eye that looks directly at you and the other eye has ideas of its own. She couldn't be sweeter. Because of her bad eye she isn't going to be invited to any gallery openings or appointed to any government departments. I don't care. I love her! I can imagine moving to Thailand and marrying her. We would name our first child Snickers.
This wonderful, sweet, innocent, anxious-to-please angel is my emotional ace in the hole in Thailand. No one will ever convince me that all Thai girls are not wonderful as long as this Snickers candy bar maid exists. As long as one of her eyes looks at me and the other eye is aimed at Phuket I will be charmed by Thailand.
Well, that's about it. As you can see I have done this a few times and I have some rules and policies and procedures and ideas and theories and codes of behavior and . . . heh, I'm a middle aged guy–this is how we live. Some day you'll be doing all this stuff. Sometimes it takes me so long to get situated what with taking out bathroom door knobs and taking down shower rods and cutting out the centers of cushions and borrowing hotel potted plants and disabling phones and raiding other rooms for soap and coat hangers; that it is time to check out.
One more story: One day I needed a three foot stick to jam between the middle frame and the end wall frame of a sliding window to make it secure. I ended up down on the boardwalk in South Pattaya bent over double searching through a municipal trash can with a covered head-to-toe in rags Thai woman. This was like my 5th trash barrel and I just kept striking out. As the two of us sorted through the trash she talked and talked. She evidently found me charismatically interesting and she had quite a lot to say on what I assume were many timely and interesting subjects. Unfortunately it was all in Thai and she was crazy as a loon. I loved the time that I spent with her. She was the real Thailand–happy, rural, kind–maybe a village beauty of hope and innocence in her day–now reduced by life to trash picking; but still happy and fun and reliable. Then it occurred to me that the solution to my problem was staring me right in the face. Her trash picking stick was exactly what I needed. I offered her 50 baht. She took it. Biggest smile I ever saw. Proof if she ever needs it that farangs are rich and stupid. I bet when I return to Pattaya she will be waiting by that trash can with another 50 baht stick. And a smile!
A fabulous achievement from Dana, over 50 submissions. And this is submission #1,000. Fitting.