Living in the Bubble of Luxury

Trip Start Jan 31, 1996
Trip End Ongoing

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Saturday, November 24, 2012


It's got to be unsightly, for staff and guests alike, to have a couple of backpackers come walking into the lobby of their luxury hotel. But there we were anyway, grimy shoes with dirtier feet inside them, sweat-soak shirts and filthy rucksacks. When Elenka plunked down a copy of our reservation it didn't matter to the desk clerk what the hell we looked like, money talks in Bangkok. We'd wanted to wash away our memories of Bali and the Chatrium seemed like just the place.

At first, I thought it might have been the smell, we were sent off to a waiting area. Moments later though, a happy hotel man, along with a spiffily dressed fellow carrying our raggedy bags, came over and said that we had been upgraded to a 26th floor, river-view suite. When we entered our room I immediately measured it off, one foot in front of the other. At 585 square feet, it was about the size of our living-room, dining-room and kitchen combined, back home in Toronto. Lights ignited automatically when we opened our own personal closet doors. A floor to ceiling glass wall with sliding doors led to our river-view balcony; it was marble just about everywhere else in the room. In the bathroom, there was a soaker-tub, separate shower stall and a sit-down toilet with an extra roll of toilet paper. Clean white towels were folded and laid out on our king-sized bed. If they upgrade the riff-raff, how would they treat the well-to-do?

On the front page of the following morning's newspaper I read that 70,000 were expected to march on Thailand's Government House later that day in an anti-government protest. 20,000 police had been brought in to keep the demonstration orderly. We were only a few kilometres away. I asked three different hotel staff members what the protest was about. Each looked at me oddly. None claimed knowledge of social unrest – nothing could invade the sanctity and privacy of the guests at the Chatrium Hotel. Should a nuclear fire-storm happen in the middle-east, we'd be safe at the Chatrium.

That evening, from our 26th floor perch, Elenka and I were entertained by a parade of a half-dozen brightly decorated and lit up boats on the Chao Praya River, followed by a fireworks display that would rival any 4th of July celebration. We cheered and waved and hugged each other, neatly snugged in our perfect world.

During breakfast the next morning, while listening to an instrumental rendition of Dan Hill's “Sometimes When We Touch, the newspaper said that tear-gas was fired by both sides during the demonstration. No one died, the article went on, but a number of rabble-rousers were hospitalized. News, I sighed to myself, why do they burden us with such meaningless, trash? With clean finger-nails I ripped open a luscious rambutan, ate a piece of the tasty fruit and tossed its hairy red shell aside. Long live the bubble of luxury.
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