Thai Thoughts And Anecdotes Part 52
Thai Thoughts And Anecdotes 52
SMILES ARE NOT ENOUGH
I have been tirelessly promoting the AA Hotel in South Pattaya for years to anyone that I thought would listen. I got turned on to it ten years ago by an old farang hand and it was the best thing to happen to me in Thailand. In the last ten years there has been almost no turnover in staff so everyone knows me. When my minivan pulls up in front of the marble steps and Anna the tour booking lady sees me she gets up and smiles and runs down the steps and throws her arms around me and kisses me. Tough not to like. Then it is in to the front desk. I get a smile from the door man and then smiles from the front desk people. They all know me. I have never had a bad experience in this hotel. It is like home. I have even taken pictures of the staff and had the pictures laminated onto T shirts that I then gave as gifts. Etc.
This time I am arriving at the end of April. You can't get any more off-season than the end of April. Songkran is over. It is blazing hot and bar girls have gone up country to be mothers to their children. Bars are empty or have closed. Big hotels are closing off whole floors and laying off staff. Chinese travel agencies are offering cut rate tours to off season resorts. I didn't make a reservation in advance because I knew I wouldn't have to. As I am checking in and filling out the guest form I ask for the ‘off-season' rate. The normal rate is 770baht. I am informed that there is no ‘off-season' rate. Lots of smiles. I don't say anything. While the check-in girl is doing things behind the counter I happen to pick up a piece of paper that is in front of me. It is a receipt for someone who just checked out. His name was Hans and he stayed four days and he paid 590 baht per day. Questions occur to me: Had Hans known these people for ten years? Had Hans sent postcards to the staff members from his country? Had Hans bought gifts for the staff or sent the hotel business or recommended the hotel on the internet? I don't say anything.
The next morning I say hello to the doorman and the security man who I have been smiling at for 10 years and I say hello to the girl across the soi who is setting up her clothing shop and I start to walk up to Second street. On Second street I get a ten baht taxi and hop off at soi 6. I walk down soi 6 and once I get to the intersection of soi 6 and Beach road I start in. I spend the next six hours visiting every hotel within two blocks of Beach road from soi 6 to the end of Walking Street. I get tours and I take business cards and rate cards and brochures. I have a 7 baht notebook from Foodland in BKK and I take notes. The bullshit at the AA Hotel has awakened the sleeping researcher in the vacationing farang.
Sorry, AA Hotel in South Pattaya–sometimes smiles are not enough.
ONE ARMED MAN
Cruz Bay Harbor–St. John, USVI
I'm anchored in Cruz Bay, St. John in the Virgin Islands on my boat. Next to me a boat is getting underway. He has no engine and the harbor is very small and very crowded. He has to sail off the mooring! There is no room for error. He makes errors. Lots of them. His responsibility to himself and to others was to plan and review and rehearse every move ahead of time because one mistake usually leads to the domino theory followed by a maritime demolition derby. His jib sheets are fouled on the anchor fluke and his mizzen sheet is wrapped around the rudder head. His boat has fallen off and is picking up speed. He is heading right for me and his boat won't respond to the tiller. I am not even yelling. I am just standing there on deck. Helpless! My boat took two years to build and I am about to be cut in half by a nautical numbskull who should get a bullet to the head. At the last second he misses me. By an inch. As he goes by I notice that he only has one arm. I was nearly run down and ruined by a one armed man. My brain photographs him. Over the years the image reappears in my brain–always followed by epithets. I'll never forget the one armed man!
I'm wandering around Lumpini Park with my painted tourist umbrella. I'm looking at the pedal boats and the water lizards and the joggers and the landscaping. I'm as completely removed from my life and all that has happened before in my life as I can get. I am half way around the world buried deep in a foreign culture. It is as if I have been reborn and the slate has been wiped clean. I have left my family and my career and my friends and my history and my language and my culture and my alliances behind. I've gone over the wall and made my escape. Nobody knows me and I don't know anybody and that is the way I like it. I've issued from the womb of my past and am blinking wide-eyed at my new future. There are no circumstances under which my past can find my present. I have performed a miracle. I have transported myself into a new beginning. There isn't a part or particle of my past that can find me here. Start over time. Up ahead I see a farang-Thai couple walking towards me. They walk together the way long-time couples walk together. People who have grown into each other. They are carrying grocery bags and have that ‘going home' look. The woman is in her 30's. The man is elderly looking. In his sixties–but carrying a lot of life baggage. He is a physical wreck. He looks old–sick–on his last legs! I briefly wonder if he will even make it home to help his wife put away the groceries. He is shambling. He is unappealing. Unattractive. I have the usual thoughts about how a young attractive Thai woman could be hooked up with him. But god love him–she is. Her body language and speech and facial features are of love and commitment and mating decisions made a long time ago. My heart goes out to the both of them. I am happy for them. Nonjudgmental. Envious. This old broken down ugly sick guy is doing better than me. He's got a voice in the night–I've got a mulberry bark umbrella. As they get close I notice the guy only has one arm. Jesus, it's the One Armed Man! The nautical jackass who nearly ran me down and nearly destroyed my life fifteen years ago.
I forgive him!
AH, THAILAND. . . .
I have brought Moon to a guesthouse I first discovered on a tour ten years ago. It is located on the Songkla reservoir. The main building that comprises the lobby and the lounging area and the restaurant is located on the brow of the hill and has a lovely view of the reservoir. The lake is so big that it looks like an inland sea. You can not even see the end of it. It is just blue water to the horizon. Tumbling down from the main building is a lawn that goes to the water. There is a dock. At the top of the hill and on the way down to the water on the left are really charming little rooms that are really more like little houses. The walls and the floor are round rocks set in concrete and then shellacked. The roof is straw. Very interesting architecture. Never seen it before. Labor intensive but fire proof and rot proof and mold proof and insect proof and cool. There are front porches and furniture and every little room has a nice view and shade. It is around 1:30 in the afternoon and blazing hot. I am sitting on the porch in the shade. Some of my clothes are tied in the bushes and trees in front of me. Yesterday, the Moonster and I went on an elephant and boat and bamboo raft tour. Some of my clothes got wet. So my clothes are drying in the sun and I am in the shade with a book that I am not really reading and I am sort of recovering from the mornings trip to Three Pagoda Pass. Another tourist ‘must see" that disappoints and another unloved shabby temple. But it was something to do. Now we are back. I am content to just sit and read but Moon is thirty years younger and full of the energy of youth. She is out on the lawn talking to friends she has made amongst the staff and the guests. She is wear pink flip-flops and a pink tube top and starched white airplane shorts (you can see up to the cockpit). No book could compete with this. She is running around and happy. I can't take my eyes off of her. She looks like a piece of sex candy. She is laughing. Last night I held her in my arms and told her that I loved her and I meant it. She kissed me all over with little bird kisses. Now she and the others have disappeared. I wonder where they went. I like to have her in my field of vision. I worry. Every man wants her. Then I hear the sound of a car. A car with Moon in the passenger seat and the others in the back has just crested the hill and is driving down the lawn. It is going too fast. My stomach muscles tighten. What the hell is going on? I lean forward looking middle-aged and concerned and mature. If someone doesn't do something the car will end up in the water! The car careens towards our porch and someone mashes on the brakes. Everyone gets out laughing. What the f. . k? Now they all disappear again. Then back with buckets and a water hose and sponges and rags. They are going to wash the car in the hot sun right in front of me on the lawn. Lots of activity. Lots of chatter. Laughing. Happy people. Now the washing starts.
Hot hot hot sun! Thai laughing. Water games. Soapsuds on everyone. My Moon is bent over the trunk of the car right in front of me and her ass looks like it has a motor in it. Does she know she is doing this? I can see her breasts tugging at the tube top. Her airplane shorts are wet through and transparent. I can see places I have been to and places I am going to return to. I put the book on my lap. Her ass is talking to me. Does she know what she is doing to me? Of course she does!
Ah, Thailand. . .
Love him or hate him, Dana could never be accused of being boring.