Another Fine Mess (or ‘Chumps at Chong-Nonsi’)
On Nutter’s recent fine Mor Doo post prompted me to write this, and besides, I’ve got time to kill. After the meanderings, it offers a cautionary note on superstitions in the Land of Smiles. As well as being a fuckwit.
About two and a half years ago, in my continuing search for the perfect pint of Fosters, I found myself in Bangkok for the second time. My first visit, six months earlier, was both an eye and mind-opener – the equivalent, for me at least, of 5 years living distilled into two weeks. Most importantly, I’d survived that trip without falling for one of the fallen angels. But my second-ever barfine/first LT was foremost in my thoughts. I smiled to myself on the cab ride from the airport, ‘yeah, I’ll keep an eye out for Poon….sure I can remember her bar’.
A more pressing matter was who I was sharing this cab ride with – a surly father/son tag-team in a battered Toyota. (The blissful dip-shitted days before finding the airport public taxis). Junior rode shotgun and kept glancing round at me furtively. Their peace of mind not helped by my request be dropped at Nana BTS, and not my destination hotel in Silom, after recalling the 90 min traffic jam I’d endured last time.
I find that the airport cab ride tends to set the tone for the rest of the stay, and so it was here. After 15 minutes on the highway, the goons pulled a u-turn to make an unscheduled stop at a shady strip of shacks. Junior disappeared for a while and came back with a half-filled plastic bottle poking out of a grocery-bag which he handed to Pops before taking over driving duties. ‘800 Baht’ growled Senior charmlessly at Nana Soi 7. When I looked back from the BTS escalator, the old goat was pouring the bottle’s contents into the gutter.
Good job I took the BTS. Silom was partially cordoned off. When I sloped up to the hotel, Rich, my friend was outside talking with the tailor and taxi mafia. I snapped from my travel fug as Rich jabbered about some major police operation that had taken place. Down a few blocks, at the Sofitel, we could see the aftermath – cordons, lights, etc. Turns out that a tourist had a meter taxi give him back change for 100 Baht instead of 1000. This sort of thing is very embarrassing for Thailand’s image and we were witnessing the investigation resulting from this new zero tolerance initiative. Probably. As we watched, the tailors touted for business. Rich started to get pissed, but I raised a calm hand. ‘Don’t worry, I have brought designs with me….I come see you later OK?’ The rag-men nodded zealously. ‘What are you playing at?’ asked Rich. ‘You’ll see’.
Boys in Brown and Men in Black were still outside the Sofitel when we cabbed to Nana a few hours later. No stops were made en-route this time to pick up mystery piss-pots. In NEP, we got hammered to the point where bar-fining would have been futile. I think we went to Patpong as well. I crashed out back in my room around 2am. I had fitful dreams invaded by distant music. The dream music became more insistent and sometime later, sensing that I was half-conscious, I began to realise that the music was coming from somewhere in the room. Surrounding the bed was one of those 1970s headboard/nightstand combo things with built-in radio. I must have knocked it ‘on’ accidentally in my inebriation. Scrabbling about at the dials, I eventually felt a click. Silence.
This is one hotel you don’t want to miss breakfast at. I checked my phone on the nightstand – 9am. After dozing another 15 mins, I checked the phone again – it was off. I was bemused, as the battery had been nearly full. Before leaving the room, still in a semi-daze, I went to my case on the floor for a crop-top or something (having to compete with all those Scandinavian hunks in the omelette line is such a pain), Under the nightstand, my eye was caught by a trailing wire with no plug. Wondering if the radio had been a dream, I checked front of the nightstand – there were the knobs. I clicked ON – nothing. I put my hand under the stand and traced the wire – it went up into the nightstand. I checked the other end again – bare wires. I’d been here less than a day and was already losing the plot.
Coming back from Khaosan Rd the day after next, I tried to put my room key in the power slot – it wouldn’t fit. After trying it different ways, I saw a piece of metal already in the slot. The power in the room was on, so I shrugged, flicked on the devil-box and settled down to letch over the Uni girls volleyball on a Thai channel. Later, making coffee, I found a spoon with the handle snapped off… which explained the metal jammed in the power-slot. Down at the pool, I told Rich about the previous night’s LT – a nice 30-something from the Muzic Bar, Patpong (the rear-view of her undressing still a wank-bank fave) and also mentioned the oddities in the room – the weird radio and the spoon. I’d since tried everything with the phone, recharging, etc but it was completely dead. Returning to our rooms, Rich thrust a hand across my chest. ‘Look….’ Way down the corridor, a maid was listening against one of the doors. We padded towards her, she saw us – and vanished into a service closet. When we reached our rooms, it was plain that she’d been at my door!
We left next day for Pattaya, but we were coming back to this hotel after, so we re-booked on check-out. They put us back on the same floor. ‘Can we have room 1040?’ smiled Rich. We both noted the looks on their faces. Let me say now I’m a non-believer in ghosts, spirit-worlds etc. I don’t believe the room was haunted at all, but something was definitely afoot.
Returned from Pattaya and back in the same hotel, we witnessed further oddities with the room. We were staying in different rooms now but on the same floor again. Passing 1040 one afternoon, Rich said, ‘Check that shit out.’ I hadn’t seen what he had – we back-tracked. At the base of the door, what appeared like tiny half-matchsticks had been placed to rest obliquely against the corners, presumably to detect a disturbance. Either that or Jason Bourne had left his LT to go and get supplies. We continued on, and saw another maid down the corridor dart back out of sight after again watching us! These did not seem like co-incidences.
I visited NEP on my own one night to try and track down Poon. I was dismayed to find that no-one in her bar had ever heard of her. It was Rainbow 1. Wasn’t it? Or was it the one next to it? Dash it all, after 6 months I wasn’t sure… so I’d just taken another step on the rites of passage. Someone else (Lurcher?) recently mentioned the phenomena of the Rainbow bars – which is which? When I’m in NEP I know them all, but any distance from them and its like the go-go memory Bermuda Triangle. I can remember all sorts of details from trips 2-3 years ago but which girl was from Rainbow 2 or 3 – hopeless. Anyway, I wonder what became of Poon.
Next night we took Rich’s girlfriend and her gorgeous friend Pramchit on a river dinner-cruise. At some point, we mentioned the strange goings-on at the hotel. Their reaction was my first glimpse of Thai attitudes towards superstition. Even though we’d only mentioned it in passing, they were terrified, asked us to repeat the specifics, and said we must leave that hotel. We were taken aback but couldn’t really take them seriously. I was now relishing this little diversion…
I’d met Pramchit on the first trip and she’d been a little distant. However, she’d since put on several pounds and was looking better and being more agreeable with it. I got a splendid up-skirt view as I chivalrously stood aside to let her ascend the cruiser’s spiral staircase. No tacky boring g-string but proper, lacy cami-knickers. And with my silly new Thai Nokia, I began texting her over the next few days.
I’m getting to the point of the story. One afternoon, Rich bought an object-d’art, or in my mind, a large nick-nack of questionable taste – too small to ship and too large for his rucksack. So he bought an outsized case to transport it back, and then panicked about maximum luggage sizes on the airline’s website. Cue the strangest errand I’ve been on in Bangkok – looking for a retractable measuring tape. The explanations we went through were torturous, and such was the ordeal, we broke it up with a visit to Cupidy. Whilst having a beer, we asked the papasan about the retractable tape. Let me just say that a Bangkok soapy is not the place to try and describe such an article with hand-gestures. ‘No hab Katoey !!!’. On the way back, in the large stationery store next to Sala Daeng BTS, we managed to find, not a retractable tape, or man-chick, but a great fat meter stick resembling some kind of medieval broad-sword. To my shock and delight, Rich actually bought it! I was doubled-over watching him lug this thing back to the hotel. It’s probably still there now, serving as a main support for the new extension. And better still, it still gave him no piece of mind after re-checking the airline website for luggage dimensions!
I mentioned tailor-touts earlier. You either get irate or completely ignore them. I opted for a third strategy. On being recognised by the touts outside the hotel, we accepted their follow up invitation to step into their shop. After being shown various swatches, I made my move. I had brought with me two A4 sized pictures, the first from a (now sadly defunct) UK website called ‘Chavscum.com’ (Americans, read trailer-trash) showing a spotty young Herbert wearing what can only be described as an outsized Burberry denim romper-suit. I pointed at the picture, stating that I needed four such garments made. Rich growled with embarrassment as the tailors sized up the ghastly project. But, a few mumblings and doubtful nods between them signalled that my plan was about to backfire – they were actually going to contemplate this atrocity, and I was about be asked for a deposit! Rich turned away, stifling chuckles.
‘Wait’ I said. I produced the second A4 sheet. ‘I also need four of these’. They looked at the photo and literally took a step back in perplexed outrage. In this picture, a West-coast beatnik-hobo, laden with grocery bags, was sporting a tight, faded pink leotard with flared arms. His ball-bag and Johnson were squeezing and straining against the fabric; baseball boots completed the look. ‘Your costume… is not possible’, the man eventually seethed. ‘What, there’s no way I ca-’ ‘Please…’ he snapped, thrusting the pictures back at me. To this day I’m left alone when passing that Silom hotel.
Meanwhile, I was making cautious progress with Pramchit, a coffee here, a text there. Rich and his girlfriend were having an extended tiff, so he found some evenings free. And so it was in Nana one night that we played out a medley of schoolboy errors. Stopping at the first ground floor bar in NEP to watch live soccer, we somehow ended up bar-fining two minxes, thus assuring major hassle if we attempted to access the rest of NEP on subsequent nights. We also forgot the ‘stool rule’. As we left, they jumped off their perches to follow. ‘Eh? Where’d they go?’ We frantically looked all about us, eventually peering down to see we’d scored a pair of Oompah-Loompahs. ‘But… how… you said… I thought… Jesus.’ Rich, being 6ft 4, only increased the spectacle. In the Soi 4 freakshow, we were barely notable, but I don’t relish impromptu sideshow billings. By the way, if you have any inkling about where this is going – we didn’t.
Apparently Rich’s one was quite a performer, mine was petite (as we’ve established) but curvy with unbelievably soft skin… so next night we looked them up again – not that we had a choice if we wanted to go anywhere near NEP. We idly mentioned to them the spooky hotel shenanigans… and were surprised to get pretty much the same reaction as from the girls on the dinner cruise. Rich’s BF thereafter refused to visit our hotel, insisting on a ST room. Mine came back but then took some persuading to pass room 1040, and – quelle surprise – didn’t want to leave the next day.
I glanced at my phone -12pm. It was on silent and I had missed calls and texts: ‘don’t forget – meeting M and Pramchit for lunch downstairs’. Shit in Heaven! After several entreaties, my squeeze agreed to leave only if I walked her all the way to the lift. Eventually, about 5 minutes before our lunch date, I began the spirit-walk of shame. Rich’s room door was open and he called out as we passed. My diminutive trollop had worked herself into a state of mild terror and wasn’t keen to hang about in the ‘haunted’ corridor, so she came into the room, where I was presently poking fun at the huge outsized case he’d bought. As the young lady appeared, Rich grinned. ‘She’d probably fit in there…’
He picked up the case and motioned towards her. I moved between her and the door – an act I’ll now regret forever. The resulting scream she let out would have brought down the Baiyoke Tower. With us overcome by the sonic-boom, she bolted from the room. Guests and maids appeared in the corridor and she sought refuge in one of their closets. Long story short, 15 minutes later we were in reception being asked to settle up and leave. The hotel, we were now told, had a no-joiner rule and they wanted us gone. Rich’s phone went. ‘Where are you? We have to be back to work soon…’ ‘Er… we’ll be there in a sec’.
We exited sheepishly with our cases and saw the surprised faces of our good girls waiting in the coffee-shop of the adjoining hotel. After dubious explanations as to why we’d unexpectedly checked out, the lunch proceeded under a pall of suspicion. Until, that is, my LT, who I thought had long departed, emerged from the hotel. Trying for a cab, she saw us and glared…and kept glaring. The girls noticed. ‘Hey, that girl stare at you – you know her??’
Something was said in Thai between my LT and loitering goons, the girls faces dropped.
“Beam us up, Scotty…”