The Guest House

by Lucy Gough-Jones

This story is part of our 'Unforgettable hotel nights' series, featuring tales from luxury hotel guests which were sent in for our recent travel writing competition.

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I was excited. I always was in the months I was travelling. Today, our day would consist of crossing the Thai border into Laos; and floating down the Mekong River.

Six hours later, we arrived at our first stop, Pak Beng. The tickets we’d bought included our accommodation so departing the boat and climbing the rocky cliff (this is most certainly not an exaggeration) laden with our heavy backpacks was exhausting as we were shown to our hotel.

I’d say it was more of a Guest House. It wasn’t particularly pretty: it was a bed for the night on the bottom floor of a block. Half the boat was accommodated here, the other half in a similar place on the other side of the village.

The day had been long and our climb, not to mention the searing humidity, meant we were drained. We ate in the small restaurant of the guest house before relaxing in our fan-cooled room.

10pm soon arrived and as it did, the electricity went off. We thought it to be a temporary power cut, as the village is remote and they weren’t uncommon, however as we sweltered in our rooms, unable to sleep we began to doubt our assumption. It wasn’t until we heard screaming and laughing that we decided to investigate. We got out of our (now wet) beds and opened our door, only to have five children burst through the door and begin cart wheeling around our small, stuffy room, giggling as they did so.

One of them, we discovered, spoke some English. She was 11 years old, had a Hawaiian shirt on, shorts and two pairs of sunglasses perching on the top of her head. She informed us that the electricity goes off at 10pm every night. All of the children cheered before putting our clothes on and jumping on our beds… We were never going to sleep!

Hours later, with our clothes back in our bags, we ushered the children out of our room and they disappeared, more than likely to bed.

As we lay in our hard, lumpy beds and struggled to sleep, silence descended... Bliss! We were wearing little to keep cool and I could feel my eyes drooping. Allowing myself to close them, my body relaxed as I drifted into sleep. But seconds later the resident cockerel sat outside our window and declared it sunrise - which it most certainly was not.

I drifted in and out of extremely light sleep. However soon I was wide awake, staring wide eyed at the ten people looking through the window at myself and my friend, watching us sleep.

I screamed and subsequently woke my friend and startled the peeping Toms! This set the pack of five dogs off, which set the cockerel off again, which woke a baby who started crying, which woke the children who started shouting, which meant their parents started shouting and soon enough, the whole village of Pak Beng was awake!

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