Lampang – The Beautifully Cursed City!
As Paul headed towards the lavatory on the plane, taking he and Andrew to the north of Thailand, all he could see was a sea of paranoid eyes. Everyone on the aircraft was covered up, as if attending a masquerade ball.
Other than he and Andrew.
They had just left from a provincial airport to which the Thai nationals just evacuated from the virus -hit city of Wuhan were just about to arrive. The boys had had to pick their way through cameramen and press past an army of reporters to even board the flight.
Paul couldn’t entirely mask the fact that he was a little nervous now, but he’d always come from the school of thought that when one’s time was up it was just that. So he was only concerned for a couple of minutes.
A few Bloody Marys sorted out any residual fear he may have had, as he looked at the paranoia surrounding him.
Bloody Marys! He thought to himself.
He and Andrew were heading to the hills. Paul thought it best to escape from the city and hang out with the hill-tribes. They were making for a small, riverine town where there were very few, if any tourists. In fact, there wasn’t really anything to do their either.
But hang out.
They were both pretty successful at that. And he had a good book and an equally good imagination, so he knew he and Andrew could get up to something.
They bade au revoir to Dang, their jovial landlady for the past few days, sad to leave her beautiful Chiang Mai garden.
Paul had firstly gone to pay he and Andrew’s bar bill – joking that it would probably be quite high.
‘Why not?’ he had said, ‘Holiday.’
‘Yes,’ she laughed, ‘whole of day, and whole of night!’
Paul went on to clarify,
‘No. Holiday. We are on holiday!’
Much hilarity ensued. Dang had no idea she had probably just written the best line in his blog!
The journey eastwards to Lampang, did not go quite as smoothly as planned. Mainly because Andrew had slipped into Quentin Tarantino mode and was filming Paul at every given opportunity. Paul had not eaten, and after a bumpy Song-thaew ride through Chiang Mai’s less salubrious suburbs, he was suffering from the ‘Hanger Virus!’ That horrible combination of hunger and anger that often made him ready to kill.
If he didn’t get curry in a hurry he was ready to commit Harikari!
Only not on himself!
‘Will you fuck off with that camera’ he snarled at Andrew, who had just asked him for the eighth time ‘what was happening?’
It didn’t help that Paul had stood in a queue for an hour only to be redirected to another window by a drab looking Thai woman with thin hair.
‘No have. No have’, she intoned atonally. He was not best pleased.
He felt marginally better after eating, but then Andrew had continued with his documentary skills, on the wind up. Also managing to avoid carrying any of the rucksacks due to his filming technique.
When they eventually arrived at the correct bus platform, the conductress snatched his tickets from him and commanded he stow his bags and ‘get on bus’. She was obviously suffering from ‘Hanger’ too, though one would never have known by looking at her!
Paul was drowsy on the bus, due to the Dramamine he’d popped earlier. A necessary precaution unfortunately, due to the predilection he had to vomit at the slightest turn. Sometimes it even happened when he himself was at the wheel. He had never grown out of it.
Andrew took good advantage of this malady, and slyly filmed him whilst dozing and drawling like an unattractive toddler. The wheels of the bus were going round and round as Andrew’s camera turned with them. Later when Paul saw the video, he couldn’t help but be amused.
Although he looked a sight for very sore eyes.
(See thelolaboys YouTube channel if you don’t believe me!)
When they hit Lampang they both wondered why they’d undertaken the journey in the first place. It looked like any ordinary provincial Thai city. Although more shabby, and the townsfolk less charming. A shithole, Andrew had called the place with less pretension.
Paul had read, in one of his pretentious moods, that the place had been cursed. Some king or other had accidentally whipped off a Goddesses head, as you do, and she had taken umbrage. Rightly so.
Even with no bonce!
She cursed the town for eternity. To this day, many of the city’s dwellers apparently believed this ancient folklore. On first impressions Paul was starting to believe it to – it seemed a cursed place.
However, when they arrived at the beautiful ‘Riverside Guesthouse’, things took a turn for the better.
The old teak house was utterly beguiling. ‘An-teak’ furniture filled every nook and cranny, and a languid river flowed past it’s gorgeously planted garden.
The boys’room, instead of having just the usual bed and hanging rail, was also stuffed with old memorabilia. A bureau; a writing desk; and best of all, their own bathroom.
For the previous few nights they had been sharing that utility with a group of masked travellers. It had been a touch disconcerting – though cheap. Paul and Andrew had decided, that from now on during their travels, they would plump for their own bog. It seemed the wisest thing to do in the current viral situation. It was bad enough sharing with Andrew, who could barely manage a lid and quite often forgot to flush!
Their host at their latest digs was Lorenza. She was gorgeous. She explained that she was half Italian, her other half coming from Belgium. Although she didn’t appear to have another ‘arf, running the place alone along with her brilliant staff. It seemed she spoke about 127 languages, conversing with her international guests fluently and with such grace.
And what guests they were. Incredibly cosmopolitan. Americans, Europeans, interesting folk from all over the globe who had discovered this special place.
Lorenza seemed to attract the right kind of traveller. She also laughed with her team of workers in the most perfect Thai. Everyone in the place seemed content. Not cursed at all.
Until night fell.
The sun dropped fast, as she is won’t to do in the tropics where dusk barely made a visit. As they lay in their black, shadowy room, sleep did not come so rapidly. Mosquitos buzzed around them as they hid their ‘deetless’ bodies neath the covers.
Sweating like pigs in blankets.
Every noise seemed magnified. A woman was coughing worryingly in a nearby room. A man pissed heavily for what seemed an eternity. There was drunken laughter from a Chinamen who’d been on more than the soy sauce, and who’d been yabbering all bloody day and night.
Then the howling began!
It was a full moon and Lampang’s dogs took full advantage. It sounded as if hundreds of them had taken to the streets. Up and down the riverside their tuneless song carried through the torpid air.
Months to a dog.
Maybe these canines, with their sixth sense, knew something Paul didn’t. Maybe the place was cursed after all. It was certainly one of the most sleepless nights either of them had ever had. And they’d had a few! The atmosphere fecund with a mysterious essence. The night had never seemed so dark. Paul, for once, was delighted to see the sun rise. He was up a dawn which was usually anathema to him.
Not in Lampang.
The following day was he and Andrew’s anniversary. They had been conjoined for twenty eight years after meeting on a touring West End musical. At times it hadn’t always been easy, a curse in fact, but mostly a blessing. As they clinked their bottles of Chang together they looked for a moment into each other’s tired eyes. Paul suspected, after the little sleep they’d had the night before, there would be no renewing of their vows that night. Surely a malediction on such a blessed day.
‘Those Bloody Dogs!’ Paul cursed.
Though not out loud.
He didn’t want the angry Goddess to overhear him.