Lonely Planet guides are so well-written and detailed, it's easy to forgive them their creative license and bald-faced lies. Perhaps the Songkhla Hotel was 'refurbished' back in July 2001 when this edition of the Thailand Guide was published, but six months later, the place has been unfurbished all over again. Really, how much can I complain, huge cockroaches are almost mandatory in four dollar hotel rooms and they are easily flattened by fat, falling guidebooks.

I seem to prefer bad decisions to indecision. My choice of shabby places to stay during our travels certainly bears this out. I can shrug off peeling wall paper, dingy flooring or minor structural defects if it means I can take my pack off right now and settle down. Minutes later I noticed the gaping hole in the floor and the missing windowsill. Some details stretched the limits of shabby housekeeping into squalor. One 11"x11" floor tile at the Songkhla had twenty-six individual cigarette burns on it. After a visit to the bathroom which featured a Thai style squatting toilet- oddly enough labeled American Standard- I promised myself I wouldn't shower again until we moved. But my pack was heavy and we'd already paid the four dollars. It seemed tolerable, until a rat started eating my umbrella.

The rat had every right; my umbrella was jammed tightly into his front door, a sizable hole in the hotel floor, next to the trash bin. I used the umbrella as a preemptive strike, deterring him from entering the room and ending my marriage. Kristin's loathing of rats and mice is loud and frenzied. The rat saw the umbrella as an affront to his sovereign rule of our garbage and reacted aggressively.


"What's that?" Kristin asked, sleeping lightly in the noisy hotel.

The wind and trees played like rain against the siding. Our neighbors took late showers and hacked up gobs of phlegm. And then there was the new sound, like a drum roll on rice paper, like obsessive stapling, like the sound of crisp vinyl being systematically perforated by keen rodent teeth.

"Nothing. I took care of it already."


"What's that mean? 'I took care of it already?'"

"Nothing. Everything's fine."


"What is it? And is it in or out?"

"It's out," I said. "It's just a furry thing eating the umbrella. It's fine."


"Took care of it already did you?"

"I'll look into it."

I got up and wiggled the umbrella. The rat scuttled away in the floorboards under the room. After a quick damage assessment- minor as the umbrella was still in the protective sheath I purchased it in (the umbrella, not me), I wrapped the whole thing in a threadbare hotel towel. Should the rat feel this battle worth continuing, now it would be much quieter. I plunged the stopper back into the hole and went back to bed.

I would lying if I said either of us slept well.

By nine the next morning we were safely installed in a rat free and spacious room at the recently refurbished Chokedee Hotel, a hundred meters down the road, recommended by the Lonely Planet.

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