Water, water everywhere.

Water, water everywhere.

The JW Marriott Hotel could be renamed the JW Merriment Hotel, such is the variety of ways for guests to spend time as they emerge from the 300 rooms jacked up over three levels.

The design of this hotel was clearly inspired by water. First, a river system with lakes was built, remembering that the sea is out the front  – and there was quite a lot of water there already. Then the rooms were pressed into the banks of the river, meaning that now everybody has a water view and people like us on the lower floors can open their double doors, walk out onto their terraces and drop into the drink. There is also a pet freshwater crocodile that eats children. No, there isn’t really, but one wouldn’t go astray because this place is overrun with kids. The dining room is like a schoolyard at lunchtime, to say nothing of a large flock of sparrows that perch in the elaborate ceiling and swoop down to clean up crumbs. This is an environmentally friendly hotel, we’re told, so the sparrows must be tolerated. The one saving grace is that they’ve learned to shit outside. I’d hate to have an unintended dot of sago added to my bircher muesli at breakfast.

The hotel activities centre is a small city in itself. It boasts a well-equipped gym, bicycles, table tennis, library, tennis, exercise room, water sports (no, not that kind), volleyball, golf, yoga (which I hate) pilates, Thai boxing (black eye guaranteed) language classes, and the artistic delight of fruit carving. There is also an extensive children’s entertainment department full of games, both educational and frivolous. The greatest attraction for me is the squash court, where I would surely die of heart failure if I played, but I’d hit the wooden floor with a smile on my face. I just might sneak away for a hit on my own and once again feel the exhilaration of slamming that small black ball along the wall.

Michelle bought a SIM card for her phone at the airport, made one call to her mum and the card died of malnutrition. Swearing a pox on the phone company we made off to Khao Lak town in a taxi this morning to get her back on air.

The further you go from Bangkok the less English is understood. Many of us who try to convey information to somebody who doesn’t have the decency to speak our language, instinctively believe that they will understand better if we shout. Not in anger, of course, but we just can’t help yelling, along with exaggerated lip, jaw and tongue movements. Michelle and the phone shop lady went at it for some time at increasing volume. The lady called another shop to clarify what Michelle wanted and the proprietor of that shop suggested Michelle went and bought a SIM car from him instead. Hearing this, our phone shop lady had a row with him and we all started again. Michelle is now phone-able, but for how long is anybody’s guess.

There is no dress code at the Merriment, but unofficially, the blokes can wear shorts into dinner as long as their knees are covered. I’d only brought mid-thigh shorts. With the phone shop negotiation now settled, I walked along the street past a sign that said ‘Tsunami Tailors’ (rather poor taste, I thought) to a dismal clothing shop where most pairs of shorts were cut for a boy of ten. I found two baggy-at-the-front pairs that nobody else could stand, but at least they were my size, and I bought them after a short tussle over the price of $12 each. You can imagine how good they are.

Now flushed with retail success I decided to buy some sparkling mineral water because, at the Merriment, they only serve Perrier, at the price of cognac. The shop assistant didn’t understand any English, even when I shouted at him. In exasperation I pointed at a stack of still water and said loudly ‘I don’t want this water. I want mineral water. Mineral water different. Mineral water have many bubble’. That didn’t work either. Ah, I needed some theatre. I pointed again at the stack of still water bottles and made bubbling noises while demonstrating effervescence with my hands. After several simulated boil-overs he understood! He beckoned to me. I followed him around the back where he presented me with an electric jug.