“At one point in time, this was the most exclusive hotel in Haad Rin.” Jak was giving Chara and Anna some background to their new home. It had taken them over an hour of searching his villa drawers to find the keys, but eventually, Jak had located them. The resort really was just a few streets down, just a five-minute walk from Jak’s place.
“I’m gonna take you girls to room B16. That was always my favorite room. It has the best view of Haad Rin Bay, and it has a jacuzzi too.
The hotel was a monolithic concrete structure that reached into the sky maybe 15 stories high. The grey walls were cracked and crumbling as high and as far as the eye could see. A grand archway welcomed them as they walked through what must have once been reception. The glass check-in counter was clouded and scratched, and covered in dust.
Chara kicked at the dried leaves that blanketed the wooden floor, which was also covered in dust and dirt. The reception was open to the elements, not closed off by any doors, which meant that air could flow through easily--but so could everything else. They walked down the hall, past a grand staircase and what must have been considered a high-tech elevator back when this place was at its peak. They walked through a second archway that led to a courtyard, at the center of which was a huge, rectangle pool. The water’s surface was covered with leaves, and what little of the water they could see was a moss green color. The courtyard was encapsulated by four towering concrete walls.
Chara imagined the resort in its heyday, back in the early 90s: Colourful sarongs hanging from the balcony railings, guests looking down at the pool area below, gazing down at their peers frolicking in and around the pool. Bikini-clad women lazing in the lounge chairs lining the pool area, sipping at Pina Coladas made fresh from the bar, while men in vibrant speedos ran and jumped into the crystal-clear water in attempts to impress them.
“This place must have been truly something in its time,” Chara exclaimed, nodding her approval as she took it in.
“Bit of a dump now, though,” Anna laughed, slapping Jak playfully on the arm.
“Yeah, I know. It’s such a waste. I remember coming here when I was a kid. We were completely booked for two weeks of every month. All 309 rooms.”
“Jesus! That’s a lot of guests!” Anna cried.
“The main elevator is broken, but luckily the service elevator still works.” Jak dug the keys out of his pocket, and guided them through the pool area, down a dark hallway, lighting the way with a flashlight.
“This place is kind of creepy, Jak. Are you sure it’s not haunted?” Anna asked hesitantly.
“I dunno,” Jak pointed the flashlight up so that it was under his chin, lighting his face from beneath. “You girls will have to tell me!”
“Stop it!” Chara shoved him playfully.
They stopped in front of a large elevator, and Jak inserted a key into the device on the wall. It made a noise, and the thick, heavy doors groaned open.
“Are you sure this thing is safe?” Anna asked.
“Yeah, it’s old, but it works just fine. These things last forever,” Jak reassured her, slapping the sturdy metal frame as they walked in. The inside smelled of dust and mold. “I came up here with a friend a few months ago to stargaze, and we took this up. It makes lots of noise, but it gets you from A to B.”
Chara wondered if the friend he was referring to had been one of Jak’s female conquests, and felt an inexplicable twinge of jealousy tighten in her stomach.
The elevator creaked and squealed all the way up to the 15th floor. The doors creaked open to reveal a spacious hallway. The carpet was an ugly brown and purplish pink color that had faded over the years. Light streamed in through small windows. Chara looked out and saw that they were indeed high, high above Haad Rin.
“This place has a better view than your villa, Jak!” Chara gasped.
“I know, the view is pretty epic, isn’t it?” he nodded, guiding them down the hallway. They rounded one corner, then another, and then another, until finally Jak stopped at a door labeled B16 with gold-plated lettering and rattled the keys into the lock. He turned the handle and pushed the door, but it wouldn’t open. Casting a funny glance at Chara and Anna, Jak turned sideways and turned the handle while shoving the door hard with his shoulder. The door opened with the extra effort.
The same smell of must and mold from the elevator seemed to have followed them into this room, where it was now more apparent than ever.
Jak had been right: this place was definitely a fixer-upper. Scuffed-up wooden steps led down to a large living room with old, lumpy sofas, and a TV so ancient, it had a V-shaped antenna as its crown.
Floor-to-ceiling windows were no doubt the best feature of the suite but were almost too dirty to see out of. Chara rubbed her hand along a pane and looked at her finger. It was almost black with dirt. The floor of the balcony outside was covered with litter--plastic and glass bottles, cardboard boxes, old clothes. It looked like whoever had been in this suite last had used the patio as their personal trash bin.
“Wow! Check out the jacuzzi! Jak, you were right. This totally makes the place,” Anna, who had gone off on her own to explore, called out from what sounded like far away, her voice echoing off the thick, concrete walls.
Chara and Jak followed the sound of her voice up the stairs and around a corner. A hallway led to two large bedrooms and a huge bathroom filled with light from the massive windows at the front. Chara poked her head in the bathroom, and to her surprise, saw another set of stairs. “It’s a two-storey bathroom?”
“Yeah, I wish I’d had a hand in the designing of these rooms. I’d have done things so much differently,” Jak sighed, running his hand along the wooden doorframe.
The upstairs portion of the bathroom featured a large mirror, a small, old sink covered in soap scum, and a rusty tap. The grouting between the tiles on the floor was so dirty that it was completely black, where Chara guessed it was once white.
She made her way down the stairs, following Anna’s voice, where she found her sitting in the dirt-filled jacuzzi that looked out over the ocean--from what little could be seen of it through the misty, dirty windows, that was. It was big enough to fit all three of them. Around a corner was an old toilet that was cracked in three places, and appeared to be leaking as well, as water had pooled around the base. A small hallway led to an outdoor shower that had an opening at the front looking out directly over the sea.
“This place has a lot of potential, Jak,” Chara nodded approvingly, walking back up the stairs.
“Yeah, I know. It just needs some TLC,” Jak agreed.
They walked back into the living room. Jak pried open the glass doors to the patio to let some air in. They squealed like a pig as he pulled the panes apart as if they hadn’t been opened in years.
“So, what do you think?” Jak looked at them with raised eyebrows. His golden eyes bore into Chara’s inquisitively, making her feel warm and tingly all over.
“I know this sounds lame, but I would love to clean this place up. It would honor my inner neat freak,” Anna admitted, excitedly.
“And I’d love to get into the design. I may be a book designer, but I can definitely apply my skills to interiors,” Chara chimed in.
“Great! Well, when do you girls want to get started?”
“Why don’t we stay here and start planning today?” Anna offered.
Chara nodded in agreement.
“Cool. You can take my truck in to Thong Sala tomorrow to get all the supplies you need. In the meantime, you’re welcome to sleep at my place until you get this place at least clean enough to live in.”
“Thank you, Jak! This is so exciting!” Chara threw her arms around him. It would be good for her to have a project to occupy her mind, and also to give her some distance from Jak so that she could organize her messy mind.