I am learning that Thailand doesn’t like to write the word “Hotel” or “Guesthouse”, which is fine except that whatever they do write is in Thai script. Basically, I have no idea of how to find a hotel without someone pointing directly at the building for me. The universal charade for I’m looking for a hotel is the hands under the head. Universally recognised. My entrance into town is typically to ride around a bit and look for something obvious before starting to ask people for directions.
In Pong Nam Ron I asked in charades for a hotel. The nice girl looked a little embarrassed, looked around to see who was watching then pointed to herself in a question. “No. no. no. no. no. no, for me, to sleep. Hotel for me to sleep tonight.”
In Khlong Lan, the second person I asked started saying “Farung. Farung”, meaning westerner. but she wasn’t looking at me. She lead me across the street to the house of a German guy living with his Thai bride. After some niceties in broken English his wife went to see if her other neighbour would rent her spare room for the night.
The German took me for a sightseeing tour of the area on the back of his motobike. He was a native to the right hand side of the road, hadn’t grown up on 2 wheels and took up the space where the first three people normally sit, leaving me to squeeze on the very end of the pillion seat. On our tour his back story started to come out. English vocabulary was basic and any quantity was “too much”, it applied to land, money, water (flooding) and potatoes, a word he must have been taught by an Irish man.
He met his now wife in Pattea, a seaside town south of Bangkok famous for its massage parlours, boom boom, lady boys and old men that go chasing all three. She was a massuese, they got to know each other, lived together in Pattea for a while before moving north to quiet little Khlong Lan at the base of the mountains. In his tour he pointed out the houses of the Australian man, Swiss man, French man and others that lived in the area. We tried dropping in on a couple of his friends but the husbands were away (in Pattea) leaving the wife at home with the small children.
I started to get the impression that perhaps Khlong Lan was were ex-masueses went whilst they waited for their retirement investment to mature. If you ensure your diet is high in fat and the local hospital doesn’t have a good cardiac record then your investment plan will mature sooner. My hotelier for the night was once married to a chinese (pronounced shiny-se in German english) man before he died. She may have ‘too much’ money now but I didn’t see her smile much.
Finding a hotel in Tak was a bigger ball game because there were expensive hotels that I could find, and in-expensive ones I couldn’t find. But they all advertised with picture billboards and random direction arrows, all I had to do was follow the arrows of the dodgiest looking signs and I’d be okay. I tried to follow some arrows, gave up and asked a bit and then a bit more. Eventually a guy spoke English. “The white building just there”. As I rolled into the car park I still couldn’t tell it was a hotel.
The first room they gave me had a shower with no pressure and a vintage hotwater system that was just for looks. When I changed rooms the friendly guy helped check that the shower worked then, as he was leaving, tried his english on me. “Beautiful . . . ” he started rubbing his arm “beautiful . . . . massage for you”. I hardly needed to say no, I think he saw the fear in my face and left promptly.
However, things are looking up. I met a cyclist called Dan from America. We were travelling opposite directions and stopped for 10 minutes to chat. I told him my problems in finding hotels and he said its easy. “Just look for the sign saying ’24’. They’re normally about 200-250 baht. Just make sure you get the rate for the whole night and not the hour”.
Problem solved. I’ll see how it goes.