“Jet Pee Nong, what the hell is that?” asked the walk-in customer.
“That, my friend, is the name of a magnificent hotel in a brilliant resort, on the holiday you’ve been dreaming of,” answered the overly keen sales agent at Rickets Travel Bureau.
“I noticed the ‘deal of a century’, you’ve been plugging on social media recently. Tell me more.”
“You are in luck. We only had one spot available, and it had been booked,” said the young man with the bright yellow blazer with the over-sized letters, RTB, plastered over the breast pocket. Below the logo was a pin screaming ‘Jethro’.
“I was in luck, but it had been booked?”
“Yes, tragedy in the customer’s family. She had to cancel. So, it’s yours, just give me your card and I’ll get on with booking it for you,” Jethro beamed.
Nigel Peters scratched his chin, “I’ve never been to Thailand before, what’s it like?”
“Oh, you’ll love it. It will be hot, the beaches are clean, the food is to die for… And Thai ladies are beautiful, say no more,” RTB Jethro was getting on Nigel’s nerves. He considered the reason he was there in the first place, he needed a break.
“Okay, book it.”
“Splendid decision, Mr Peters, you fly out Wednesday from Heathrow. Have a lovely holiday.”
Nigel settled himself in the middle seat in the central aisle and half-way back of the Thai Airways Jumbo.
“There’s always one, and he is always next to me,” Nigel mumbled to himself as a scruffy younger man tried stuffing his over-large holdall in the crammed overhead container.
“Sorry mate, they buggered my ticket, panic all around,” he said squeezing next to Nigel.
Pulling his jacket free of his neighbour as he sat.
“You’re here now, enjoy the flight,” Nigel sneered, making it clear he wanted no further conversation.
A man was waiting at Suvarnabhumi Airport with a small sign boasting, ‘Mr Peter’, hand-written in black marker pen.
“But I’m Peter,” an elderly man stated.
“No, sir, I meet Mr Nigel Peter,” said the mini-bus driver.
“Excuse me, are you looking for me?” asked Nigel, looking at the clipboard and seeing 'Peters'.
Nigel was directed to his seat on the bus.
The mini-bus took no time in becoming snarled in Bangkok’s infamous traffic.
“Hello again, mate,” Nigel heard from behind.
“Yes, hi, you again, it seems we are destined to sit together.”
“Where are you going? I’m going to the beach, I deserve sand and sea after what I’ve been through,” said the scruffy man.
“Me too,” Nigel said, dreading the next question.
“Are you going to Hua Hin?”
“Oh, God,” Nigel breathed as he studied the overhead vinyl. “Yes, I think that’s what it’s called.”
The mini-bus pulled up outside a newly painted building, ‘Jed Pee Nong Hotel’ in foot-high letters hung above the entrance.
“Don’t tell me we’re both staying here?” thought Nigel.
“This way, gentlemen,” said a young receptionist, pointing to the front desk. The driver lugged the luggage to the hotel’s trolly.
“Can I see your passports please,” she smiled.
Nigel rushed his document out of his pocket, hoping to escape his travelling companion.
“Thank you, Mr Peters. And yours, Mr Jackson?” she looked as Mr Jackson searched his pockets and then his small shoulder bag.
Mr Peters was getting used to studying ceilings, plane, bus and now the fresh paint of the hotel foyer.
“No problem sir, the police station is over the road,” she pointed, “I’ll report it missing. Here’s your key.”
“Where’s my key?” asked Nigel.
“Oh, we only give one key per room,” she answered.
The men looked at each other, then at her.
“What?” yelled Nigel.
“I’ve got you down as a couple? That’s what the agent told us,” she said.
“Oh, no, I had to sit next to him on the plane, shared the bus with him, there is no way I’m sharing a room!”
The girl busied herself with a huge ledger, “We are full tonight, but, tomorrow lunchtime we will have a room free?”
Mr Jackson shrugged okay. Mr Peters did not, as they trudged to the lift.
“You have got to be kidding me!” as Nigel saw the double bed.
“Which side do you want? I prefer to sleep near the window. If that’s okay with you. Oh, can you keep your noise down, I need to nap,” called Mr Jackson to Nigel’s fast disappearing back as he stormed back to reception.
“I am sorry, sir, but…” she started.
“Where can I get a drink?” fumed Nigel.
A folding map was handed to him, with bars, and restaurants circled. Nigel marched in the sea's direction and hopefully cold beer.
After sampling some strong Thai beer, he got chatting with a few friendly bar girls. The beers soon changed to shots of local whisky. Nigel had calmed down and was enjoying himself with one young lady. They agreed to meet up the following day.
“My God, it’s gone one o’clock,” slurred Nigel as he staggered back towards his hotel.
“Can I have my key, please?” he said, proud that he didn’t appear as drunk as he felt.
“The key is with… um, your friend, sir,” the receptionist from earlier reported.
“Let me in, Mr Jackson,” Nigel spoke to the door. “Come on, hurry, I need a pee,” he asked louder.
No answer, no sound from inside, Nigel’s firmly crossed legs made it to the WC in reception.
“Have you got a spare key, please,” said a much relived Mr Peters.
“Yes, sir, I can let you in. He must be a sound sleeper.”
The room door pushed back, and the lights flicked on.
“Where is he?” asked the puzzled receptionist.
“Where are my bags? My passport!”
An instantly sober guest opened the wardrobe, then the bathroom even looked under the bed.
“Please sir, accompany me to the police station, we must report this. At least then, you will have the bed to yourself,” smiled the girl.
No smile joined her across the road. A furious snarl marched back after spending an hour with the bored night officer.
“Why did I have to keep repeating myself, as he scribbled notes?” whined Nigel.
“His English is not so good, you were speaking too fast,” said the girl.
“So, all this is my fault?”
“No, sir, please take the hotel key and have a good night,” she offered, thankfully her shift had ended.
A hammering woke Nigel at eight o’clock, “Sorry, sir, but you didn’t answer your room phone,” said the receptionist standing next to a police officer.
“I unplugged the phone, as I wanted a full sleep!” said Nigel as he glared at his visitors.
“Do you mind if I come in,” the officer strode to the coffee table and sat down, pulling the other chair back for Nigel.
“I need you to prove who you are, sir,” said the stern man in the brown uniform.
“I haven’t got my passport, as you well know,” glared Nigel, pulling his wallet from the trousers he had slept in.
The police officer held out his hand, Nigel passed the wallet over.
“No credit cards? No driving licence? No cash?”
“What? Give it here,” stormed Nigel, snatching it back.
The empty wallet hit the far wall. The receptionist’s eyes widened. Her ears glowed at English terms she was unused to.
“Calm down, sir. You had better accompany me across the road,” said the officer, hand on his pistol.
Nigel slumped to his knees, head in hands, “Christ Almighty,” he wailed as he was guided to the police station.
After a lengthy telephone conversation with the British Embassy and proving who he was, he could enjoy the rest of his stay in Thailand. A friend sent him cash via PayPal, making life easier with cash in his pocket. Nigel loved the Thai food, he enjoyed watching monkeys steal fruit, he even saw a dolphin when he took an interesting boat ride as part of a trip to the nearby mountain. His guide was the young lady he met his first night. They were getting on as if they’d known each other for years.
On his third day in Hua Hin, he relaxed in a deck chair on the beach; he unfolded the Bangkok Post.
“What,” instantly he sat up, as a headline on an inside page jumped at him, like a cold fish’s revenge. He felt the slap across the cheeks.
“RTB owner found dead in her home!”
For a reason only known to him, he looked all around him, as he read, “Well-known travel agent and business owner, Mrs Eastman, was found battered to death in her bedroom. Her husband, Mr Eastman’s whereabouts were unknown.”
Nigel cringed behind the newspaper, suspecting Mr Eastman could watch him. He carried on reading the report aloud, “Young sales assistant, Mr Jethro Jenks, is helping police with their enquiries. Mr Eastman is known to have boarded a flight to Bangkok. ‘We lost track of him there’, said a detective headed the case,” Nigel folded the paper gently on his thighs, as a voice he recognised, shouted from behind, “Keep your noise down, I’m trying to nap.”