Extracts From The Diary of Dr JA Earnshawe (Part 2)
• Ankara Surmeli
• Marinem Hotel
• Alp Pasa Hotel
• Anfora Hotel Belek
A Reputable Hotel on Soi 4, Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok Sunday 20th March
I am writing this in my hotel after a very long sleep. Unfortunately, I arrived here not without discomforting incident which I will now recount.
After a long and tedious journey, I quickly got through customs and passport control only to be faced with a sea of yellow faces all demanding that I take a taxi with them. Fortunately, a delightful young lady whisked me to one side and suggested I use her own establishment to take me to my hotel for only 800 Thai baht! By the way of digression, the currency here is of a most unusual kind, reminding me of the notes you may find in a child’s monopoly set. Mrs Thompson at the post office was unable to provide me with anything smaller than those of one thousand denomination, but I believe even these are not of much greater value than one of our ten pound sterling notes. So when I paid the taxi driver, instead of just telling him to keep the change, I gave him two of these funny notes – rather than insult him with such a small tip. He seemed to be a very simple man and was at first confused by my fare, but when he realised he was being given a decent tip he appeared excited and sped off so quickly that his tyres screeched.
Nonetheless, in spite of giving clear instructions as to where I wanted to be, I could not immediately see my hotel from where I had been dropped off. It seemed to me that rather than being in the quiet residential district as promised by Cummings, I was surrounded by a number of very noisy public bars. The air was filled with burning grease from little pavement stalls which appeared to be roasting only cockroaches. I was hungry but I’m not really a cockroach person. As I stood in confusion on the footpath a kindly old man appeared, and asked me if I needed assistance. He then most helpfully took it upon himself to take me to my hotel. However, after walking several hundred yards, and by now perspiring extremely copiously (still being dressed for the brisk English spring weather), I realised he had taken me to the wrong hotel.
‘I’m dreadfully sorry‘, I told him, ‘this does not appear to be my hotel.’
‘This better hotel – very good’ he replied earnestly.
‘But I have a reservation at another hotel’, I explained. After reassuring him that I did not need a tailor, and without discovering if it was with humiliation or gratitude that he stared so long at the note I gave him, I headed back to where I started.
By now my face felt very red and steam was beginning to emanate through my woollen pullover and out the top of my overcoat. I then saw a group of young ladies in a car park staring at me (and I must have looked quite a sight!), but nevertheless, I was desperate to find my hotel and so went over to seek assistance from them.
‘Excuse me,’ I said to the nearest young lady (who, incidentally, struck me as being very beautiful), ‘I would be most grateful if you would direct me to my hotel, I’ve been looking for it a long time, and I am afraid I am now rather desperate.’
She fixed upon me for some time as if trying to work out exactly what she was looking at. ‘Long time, OK, you desperate, OK’ she then paused again for a few seconds, ‘OK, I go with you’.
‘That’s extremely kind of you’ I said, ‘but if you just point in the general direction, that will be more than enough‘. She either ignored this second request or didn’t understand it, but anyway, seemed to be quite happy to take me right to the door of the hotel, which to my surprise was only a few footsteps away. The girls had actually been standing right in the car park in front of the hotel!
To be frank, I was a little disappointed that the hotel was so close and I‘d be walking with such a beautiful young lady only for a short time. Almost thinking out loud, as we saw the hotel reception ahead I exclaimed, ‘I didn’t realise it would be such a short time!‘ She smiled and said mysteriously, ‘OK, short time, long time, OK, up to you.’ As we approached the hotel door, I pushed a note into the doorman’s hand as he opened it for me, gave another to the porter as he hurried forward to collect my suitcase, and yet another to a nearby beggar who also had his hand out. As I also tried to give a note to the girl, as a thank you for taking me so kindly to me destination, it suddenly occurred to me that I had made my first faux pas in Thailand. She was obviously an employee of the hotel, whose job it was to greet and direct customers towards reception – because she refused my money, coming right inside with me, and seemed to be accepted by the other staff. This was confirmed when I saw her showing some kind of an official card to the security man as I checked in.
At the reception desk, an Australian, dressed in casual clothes, with a grey droopy moustache called out to me: ‘Strewth, you’re not wasting much time mate.’
At first I didn’t realise who he was addressing, until I looked up after signing in and noticed he staring at me. He appeared a little the worse for drink, and was, perhaps, as an Australian, rather dangerous, so I tried to keep my reply friendly.
‘Yes, I’m going straight to bed as soon I get to my room.’ He gave the girl, a long, lingering look, then looked back to me.
‘I don’t f****** blame you mate.’
I tried to retain my composure, but could feel myself colouring.
The girl came up to my room with the porter, no doubt to check that everything was satisfactory – that the mini-bar was complete and so on (in fact she did examine the mini-bar very carefully). Having prepared myself thoroughly in Thai custom with a book I had borrowed from Miss Cox, the school librarian, I made an elaborate wai to the porter, bowing low as I went through the traditional thank you gesture, with hands clasped together at my chin (as if praying). I was about to do the same with my female helper, but she had become temporally distracted (and I hope impressed!), staring wide-eyed, first at my wai, and then at the second bank note that I had tipped the porter, before brushing aside my attempt to give her a tip, with ‘no, you me pay later’. Her meaning was, I presumed, that on check-out I would to pay some kind of charge for her services. To my surprise, although her examination of the room seemed to be complete, she made no attempt to leave. I broke our embarrassing pause, ‘Now if you will excuse me, I must get a shower and get into bed as soon as possible.’
Again, her reply was a rather strange one; ‘OK you horny man. You get shower after I go please?’
‘Of course’ I said, ‘first you go, then I’ll be able to get a shower.’ Where upon she turned away, but surprisingly, not to leave, veering left into my bathroom, which I thought she had mistaken for my room door, and would soon realise her error and be out again. But no, the bathroom door closed behind her, and after about half a minute the gentle running of water could be heard.
It is shameful, I thought, that the staff do not have their own shower facilities, or perhaps they are inadequate, and in the confusion of our disparity in language she must have thought I was inviting her to shower here. Never mind, in the meantime I could get on with my unpacking. I had waited 24 hours, I could wait a few more minutes.
After about 40 minutes she appeared, not dressed as I expected, but wrapped in a towel. I felt rather awkward and averted my eyes to the floor. ‘Now you go shower,’ she said – I thought in rather a too directive tone. As I was showering, I listened hopefully for her departure. All I wanted now was sleep. At first I heard nothing, then the distinct drone of a hair dryer – which seemed to go on for ever – then it went quiet again. As I was about to tentatively emerge from the bathroom, I heard her talking on her mobile phone, I returned to the shower for around 30 minutes when there was another quiet interval before the boom of the television being flicked through its long sequence of channels. Finally, after I had nearly washed away my skin, it went as quiet as the grave. From the crack in the bottom of the door I could see that the lights were off, she had at last departed. I could sleep the sleep of death.
So blissfully relieved that I could get some rest after so long, I threw my naked bulk upon the bed – like a whale being beached from the ocean upon the soft warm sand. Simultaneously with my hitting the mattress, a muffled, horrible scream came from beneath me, and below me – for sure – I could now see the tortured features of my multilingual chamber maid, in my bed, also in a state of undress, the air crushed completely out of her, and fighting desperately for life.
It strikes me as curious that whenever one is in a hurry the wretched lift is never on the floor you happen to be standing on. I waited for its slow ascent, only partly successful in keeping my dignity intact with my cupped hands (I had no time to pick up the towel), the lift opened and my Australian ‘friend’ stood grinning before me.
‘What happened mate?’ he leered, ‘wasn’t she up to your taste?’
‘Absolutely not,’ as I said dashing past him into the lift.
‘I see, a katoey was it?‘ He had observed my sense of urgency. The leer had turned to a kind of empathy – although I still hadn’t the foggiest what he was talking about. ‘Happens to us all some time mate.’
I pressed the button for the ground floor as he continued to call out, ’So you gonna go get security on to him?’
Him? What was he talking about now?
‘No, I’m going to get an ambulance, I think I’ve killed her‘.
His mouth gaped as the colour slowly drained from his face. As the lift doors closed between us, I heard a strange noise, perhaps it was the noise of the lift machinery as I descended, but there was something almost human in the wail
– as if the air was being slowly released from the lungs of someone who had held it for a long time: ‘Strrrrrewth.‘ it seemed to say.
Then it slowly began to dawn on me: it was a katoey! That was obviously some kind of colloquial reference to a practical joke. It explained everything; Cummings had struck again. Two years ago: was it not he who was behind the two WPCs who came to arrest Richardson at his retirement party for having a defective tyre on his Morris Minor? But not before shamelessly removing their clothes and Richardson’s – to expose none other than Cummings – the scoundrel who had hired the two strip-tease artists? Now my own humiliation, no doubt his idea of some kind of facetious initiation ceremony, was complete. My welcome to Bangkok. Well he won’t get away with it lightly. He’ll be torn off a strip mark my words. In the morning there’ll be a deuce of a row.
J A Earnshawe BSc PhD
Priceless. Please, don't stop there. Keep 'em coming!