Before partaking in the culinary delights of the region, I was escorted to my room on the fifth floor, a pleasant if not somewhat sparse chamber it must be said, yet, the bed appeared most comfortable – and it came with a much yearned-for shower, plus television, DVD player and tea and coffee service.
Needless to say, there were no TV stations that transmitted in English, I therefore soon found myself watching ‘Die Hard’, with Bruce Willis, prancing about in his grubby vest and bare feet, proficiently extolling the virtues of his heroic manliness in the most perfect Mandarin tongue you could ever wish to hear – actually, I didn’t, so I switched him off and made for the shower…a much needed shower too.
The water was welcomingly hot and plentiful and as the cubicle offered an unusual seating arrangement, I simply sat down and just let the jet-stream saturate my now very weary frame, with the long flight and all the excitement that ensued, it had after all, been a very long day.
I actually dozed off for a moment or two whilst showering, despite the intense pressure of the descending water, my mind simply submitted to the undeniable weariness that consumed my fatigued body – this surprised me very much, I’m normally a fairly resilient chap and one that can cope adequately under the pressures of semi-exhaustion – not on that particular day, sad to say – and even more exertion was to follow.
As I contemplated the thought of removing myself from the cubicle in order to dry off and dress for dinner, I quickly sensed that I was not alone in my steamy WC, someone was in my chambers, and of this I was certain.
My first thought lay with the hostile taxi driver, it was possibly he who had found his way into the hotel, then established my precise whereabouts, with a view to knocking my block off. I stayed cool, (mentally speaking) and entwined with my military experience; I strived to devise an immediate plan of action to overcome the threat I was now placed under.
I then heard movement outside the cubicle, but opted to keep the shower running as there was little point in making it too obvious that I was aware of the intruder’s unwelcome attendance.
I fretted a little at the prospect of physical contact whilst being totally nude, equipped only with a towel and a bar of Boots soap-on-a-rope, I mused briefly that this was not the kind of weaponry one associates with Bruce Willis – I was in possession of soft armaments, those that would be doomed to failure from the very start of any tussle – but, I had to go for it!
I speedily rose from the shower chair and threw open the glass door, meagrely prepared with my towel, which I had wrapped around my left hand as means of protection from a possible knife attack, whilst in my right hand, I was swinging my soap from the rope that accompanied it - for a mere second or two, I must have appeared as a poor man’s Spartacus – yet light years removed from the figure that Kirk Douglas so successfully portrayed on film all those years ago.
As soon as my feet hit the arena of perceived combat, AKA, ‘the loo’, I was faced with a sight that shall remain with me for the remainder of my life, my pulse rate must have been going 200 to the minute whilst in the shower, it then rose by another fifty beats, I was in utter shock.
There in front of me stood not a stiletto wielding, aggrieved taxi driver, but a very tall, totally bemused oriental gentleman, adorned only in his ‘Birthday suit, with a towel draped over his left shoulder. From where I stood, the only implement in his possession that could do me any harm, sat limply between his legs, that being the most enormous human male reproductive organ that I have ever laid eyes on, the tip of which dangled only inches above the patella region of his left leg.
He menacingly glared at me and yelled something none-too-pleasant, although I couldn’t understand one damn word of his tirade, it was clear that he viewed me as some form of fruitcake.
He then took steps in my direction, at which point I figured he was either going to whip me to death - or bugger the life out of me with the frightening tool that God, (Or the One-Party State) had bequeathed upon him – nope, he quite simply – and most casually, strolled into MY shower cubicle and commenced scrubbing his huge, portly frame, angrily talking to himself as he went about the task.
I quickly re-entered the bedroom and grabbed the telephone to call reception, then anxiously relayed the fact that I had an intruder in my room. Seconds after replacing the receiver, I heard a hefty knocking at the door, on opening, I was faced with no less than four hotel staff, one of which was a very tall European woman, and one who had a disturbing facial similarity to that of Irma Grese, adorned in leather, knee-length jackboots she was too.
This party of hotel employees brushed past me in a most lively manner and began searching, firstly in and behind the wardrobe, followed by an under-the-bed inspection, before moving out to the balcony, all in a bid to apprehend my intruder.
I attempted to explain that my uninvited guest was actually taking a shower, (Oh Lord, this dilemma all sounds so preposterous now) to which I received a finger over the mouth gesture, this from the apparent senior member of the group, telling me in-effect to say nothing at this stage of their investigative proceedings.
As they went about their business, frantically chattering in some indecipherable language, it dawned on me that my towel was still wrapped around my left hand and the soap-on-a-rope remained tightly coiled around my right wrist, hitherto, in my highly-agitated condition, I had completely overlooked the fact that I remained unclothed throughout the entire debacle.
My nudity had had seemingly had no effect on Irma, she didn’t even blink an eye when I answered the door – I must say, this situation did little for my recently, faltering ego, (Getting old is such a drag) – "She must be a lesbian lady" I mused to myself reassuringly, this as I hastily draped the hotel-supplied robe over my still-wet frame.
Everything then became incredibly quiet – and positively motionless. The water falling from the showerhead had ceased; the hotel entourage had too, become silent as they stood utterly still in a huddle at the foot of my bed – not even the heavy city traffic down below could be heard, this astounded me as the balcony door was wide open, yet, nothing, one could have heard a pin drop most definitely, the tension had now become quite unbearable.
Ultimately, I was to discover that my concern about my personal safety had been totally misplaced; in this particular hotel they had a system in place where two separate rooms shared a toilet and shower, hence the reason that I had a secure lock on both my main door and that of the WC.
No one had informed me of this set-up when I arrived at the hotel, hence the confusion and panic that ensued – a most embarrassing interlude it must be said, my ignorance certainly not being bliss on that most unhappiest of days.
As it happened, when things eventually settled down and everyone returned to their respective rooms or offices, I lay on the bed and slept for over nine hours, subsequently missing my free dinner and complimentary flagon of ‘House’ Beaujolais - however, breakfast the following morning proved to be a veritable feast – and I gorged myself accordingly.
For the next few days, I aimlessly wandered the streets of Guangzhou - struggling to be truly inspired by anything that I saw during my short-lived visit to this grey and murky metropolis, oh, how I yearned to be back in Thailand, the day could not come soon enough.
When it finally did arrive and my aircraft lifted from the wet runway en-route to Bangkok, I dwelt on my time spent in this corner of the huge Chinese empire, and then scolded myself for not being more tolerant and more embracing.
The Chinese people, or at least a large majority of them, do not enjoy the luxuries of their more well-heeled countrymen, what I did learn was that those who were monetarily blighted, turned out to be amongst the most friendly and most accommodating people that one may find anywhere in the world.
My overall experience had been an education – a period of crude erudition yes, but one day I must return to China to resume my learning in order to grasp a fuller understanding of this ancient nation and it’s vast cross-section of peoples.
In my hotel room laid a book, which contained the thoughts of Confucius. Within the many pages of this document, there existed a particular quote that has stayed with me since the moment I first stumbled across it, thus; "Learning without thought is labour lost; thought without learning is perilous.'
With that in mind, I sense that China and I shall be reunited at some point in the near future – but never again to Guangzhou. I’m pretty certain that God made deluded idiots on purpose, but that was only for practice. He then made underhanded, greedy Chinese taxi drivers – and I’m equally certain that Guangzhou has more than of its fair share of this contemptible breed – so I shall not run the risk of a repeat encounter with any of them.
Once reunited with my wife in Thailand, I took time to reflect on my experience. Putting the entire affair into perspective – and with thoughts of those less fortunate, (Medically speaking), especially those in my own age group across the universe, I surmised that everyone at some point, either goes into an aeroplane or a hospital – wondering if they shall ever get out alive.
Despite the harrowing nature of my oriental excursion, the beckoning call of an overseas arrival hall remains a much more appealing alternative to that of a hospital departure lounge.
Dead is forever, we therefore should each live and function as fully and purposefully – and for as long as humanly possible, despite the difficult hurdles that we inexplicably, and all too often have to face - and long before our unavoidable demise many year hence – remaining thankful for the opportunity to do so – I indeed am.
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