Saturday, January 08, 2005

When will it end? 

For any of you planning a trip to Asia, let me warn you of a phenomenon that occurs at hotels, hostels and burned out warehouses here. At a certain time of night (sometimes posted, sometimes spoken, too often never mentionde) these places tend to lock up. And I don't mean pushing over the deadbolt and drawing the shades. I am talking serious gates and bars and chained up padlocked doors. No messin' around. This phenomenon was rarely if ever explained to us upon check-in. But since we've been lame much of this trip and have not strayed out of our places of stay late at night, it was only a problem once, in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City.

That has changed.

Here we are in sleepy little Chiang Mai, a safe haven and respite (more or less) from the hurly burly chaos that seems trademarkian of Asia. Our hostel is tucked down a back alley, off the main streets, a quiet nook surrounded by lushish vegetation. Safe place. But it turns out that they lock down tight as well. Let me explain.

There is a night market about 20 minutes from our hostel. This night market is several blocks lined with vendor stalls selling just about any touristy thing you could think of. Fortunately for people like me, there is a collection of bars and restaurants (and a climbing wall?) about mid-way thru the narrow warrens packed overflowing with people and begging buy my stuff calls and claustrophobia inducing climate. One of the bars is called "Man's Place". Catchy, it's just too bad that every time I pass the place they have tvs playing crappy music or something like Enya (or some type of music that should prevent and self-respecting man from sitting down). While Rachelle shopped, I sat by the climbing wall and sipped coffee, ate some fries, wrote in my journal, and goggled over the noise. Not people. Music, I think. Every bar and restaurant and-sideshow-in the area had their music cranked in a war of sound, thinking that if their music drowned out the rest they'd get the customer. All I got was a headache from undisipherable noise.

Eventually Rachelle showed up with arms full of bags. Oogled, I followed her away from the noise to an internet site where I began downloading more pictures. She eventually tired of sitting there and left. I continued to blog and IM with a friend of mine and then my brother.

Around 1am, panic set in. The place was charging 30 baht an hour. I'd been there 2. My poor math summed up my bill to 120 baht (I had about 2,000 baht on me). Mildly panicking I startde to gather my things. But then redid my math and relaxed. I left half an hour later and bobbed home in the dark to my popping tunes. A tuk tuk driver looked back and laughed as he passed. I musta been singing out loud. Too bad he didn't see the pole in front of him-crowsh! He was ok. As I skipped past him he was still laughing at me.

Finally, I arrived at the hotel and was greeted by large iron gates closed across the drive and a very thick chain and birdhouse sized padlock barring my way. Stupefied, I ignored the obvious and pushed no the gate. No luck. A hotel employee I'd never seen before came up and asked if I had my key. I said no, it's in the room with my girlfriend. He shrugged and went back to bed.

Stuck and now growing increasingly conflustered (worsened by my steadily filling bladder), I decided that drastic action was called for. I began this part of the adventure by flinging my backpack over the 8' tall fence. Unfortunately, it wasn't until the apex of the bag's arc that I decided to remember that both of my cameras were inside. Fortunately for all involved (except the upcoming savior) a dog was sleeping just the other side of the fence, and his ribs absorbed the impact. The dog seemed none to pleased as he yelped across the yard.

Wiping the sweat from my brow, I began to scale the fence. All went well until I started down the other side oblivious to my pants that had caught on the fencetop spikes. I slipped but didn't fall. Instead I hung upside down, my shirt falling up (down) to cover my face.

Giggling at the inanity of the situation, I hung aloft, waiting for the inevitable: my pants tearing and me falling on my head; the hotel worker helping me out; R coming out and throwing blunt objects at me; the police showing up and cartnig me off to jail.

There was another option I hadn't considered. The dog from earlier in this tale quickly moved from savior to antagonist. Sensing my helplessness he shuffled over, and I swear he was chuffling in amusement. First he grabbed my shirt and pulled and yanked and bludgeoned me around and against the fence. Boring quickly, licking my face came next and slight nibbling around the ears (whispered sweet nothings from a foul breathed canine is not in the least romantic) followed by jumping up in a vain effort to reach the Mars bar in my pocket instead only clawing up my chest and face.

Finally he shoved off and I began tugging at my overstrong pants. Then I heard a noise. I looked up (down, over) and saw that my 'friend' had returned, with friends of his own. 8 of them to be exact. They sat down and began to bark. And bark. Not menacingly, amusedly. And they continued this until hotel guests began to file out.

If you some some poor sap hanging upside down from a fence with a pack of dogs barking at him, what would you do? Help him out, or are you mean spirited like EVERYONE in that hotel who gawked and then rolled with laughter. Rachelle came out last (some how sensing that I was the cause of this new disturbance). One quick look was all she needed before joining in the laughter and regaling the crowd with other episodes of my stupidity. As sat and enjoyed laughing at me, my pants finally gave way and dumped me unceremoniously (is there any other way?) onto my head. CLONK, THUD. Those were the noises.

The dogs all came over and licked me 'clean' (you ever met a SE Asian dog? Not clean or cared for or hygenic or anything of the sort). All I could do was lay there, since all the stars in the smoggy night sky had come down and were holding my head at bay.

Finally clear headed enough, I stumbled thru the now roaring crowd and fell into bed.

R grabbed my bag in plenty of time to take plenty of pics. I deleted those

Stupid mutts

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Name: Corey
Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I'm on a journey with no destination. The path is constantly changing direction but there are always adventures to be had. "Never" and "always" have left my lexicon.

WWW http:/www.jimspeak.blogspot.com