I was searching for The London Hotel, having had the place recommended to me by a friend. Paying close attention to the road signs, I was definitely heading in the right direction as I made tracks away from Phitsanulok’s train station.Confusingly, though, the hotel that I presumed to be The London had no exterior hoarding in English proclaiming it to be the place I desired. Its sign was in Thai script, and thus beyond my comprehension.
Taking a chance, I strode up to the reception desk. Nobody was there. The chair was empty. What was more, there was no bell to ring in order to inform anybody who might have been knocking about that somebody was waiting at reception for assistance.
Just as I was about to walk away in search of alternative lodgings, I heard somebody clear their throat from the room beyond the reception desk. Peering over the desk, into the dark, I could just make out the profile of a middle-aged man in repose. It was mid-afternoon, and evidently high time for a siesta.Reciprocating his unconscious vocal utterings, I made a point of clearing my throat in as loud a manner as possible, hoping to rouse him without being too rude.
When he had finally reacquainted himself with the land of the living, I asked if he had a single room. ‘One hundred baht,’ he spat, casually flinging a glance back at his hammock in the back room out of which he’d just begrudgingly crawled.He was in luck, for I had no intention of wasting his time. However, I did want to take a quick look at the room I was being offered, simply to give it an invasive once-over just in case it was infested with vermin or bugs.While my eyes do frequently deceive me, all appeared to be in order. My needs were basic to say the least, and I was happy so long as the room was clean and came complete with a bed and a fan.
Having been stuck on a Lopburi to Phitsanulok train for five hours, I couldn’t resist a brief nap before heading out, so I slung my gear on the floor and laid back. Not that I thought of England.An hour later, I was pacing up the uber-congested main street of Phitsanulok. Flanked by shops bearing huge neon signs, from a visual perspective it bears much in common with Bangkok’s mesmerising Khao San Road. Scoping the area out for viable grazing options, I spied a Tesco Lotus on the ground floor of Topland Plaza, the main shopping centre around which downtown Phi-lok thrums.
However, the last kind of food I wanted was the conventional type so readily available in big-name stores. Consequently, I backtracked to a roadside stall outside the train station where I greedily slurped down a bubbling bowl of Tom Yum soup, its fragrant herbs helping to ensure that its consumption was a feast for all the senses.
It’s only when night falls that the people of Phi-lok really take to the area surrounding the train station in their droves, a food-orientated night bazaar held on an open plot of land attracting all those in possession of taste buds demanding that they be satisfied.Despite feeling exhausted, I found it impossible to get to sleep once back at the hotel. On the back of six wide-awake hours staring at the ceiling of my room, I ultimately resorted to getting up at 3 a.m. and cracking open a warm bottle of Chang beer I’d bought earlier.
Nursing it, I had a ‘Springsteen moment’: a flash of unadulterated inspiration. I reasoned that pacing around the room might tire me out to an even greater extent. A gecko, sharing my room, had the same idea, but it soon got bored and literally climbed the nearest wall before slipping through a crack.For the price I’d paid for the room, I could hardly expect it to have its own bathroom. Suddenly, I regretted having had that beer at such a late hour. Fortunately, the nearest bathroom was only across the landing.
Making a concerted effort to keep as quiet as I could so I didn’t wake any other guests, I crept across to the shared facilities with feline grace. The same couldn’t be said for the rat that was scuttling in the same direction.Swallowing my shriek of shock, I decided to postpone my trip to the gents until sheer desperation forced me to ingratiate myself with fellow hotel guests on more intimate terms.

(Steve Rudd)

If you enjoyed reading the above, you may also enjoy Pulse, Steve’s trailblazing travelogue set in India, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia. Click here for more details.

This entry was posted in GENERAL WANDERINGS and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.