|Part of the penthouse floors and roof garden from today's story|
To anyone who's looked up at a multi-storied building in Thailand it's clear the folks there appreciate breaking up the bareness of a cement balcony or rooftop with some sort of greenery; potted plants, garden boxes or whatever. Some larger buildings - corporate offices and hotels, for example, have extensive grounds, with benches, lighting, flowers, ponds, fountains, shrubs - even trees, when possible. Up above some of the sounds of the city you can almost imagine you're someplace completely different, and that, of course, is the idea.
While staying at the Evergreen Place serviced apartments recently I was reminded of an event I haven't shared about previously, and now that a few years have passed I think I can do so without putting anyone's job in jeopardy.
As you can see in the photo up top, taken a few weeks ago, there's a great quantity of planting that's gone on on the rooftop of the complex building. I'd admired it a number of times while walking in the area, and had often wondered what the view was like from up there. I'd enjoyed the view from my own balcony up on the 18th or 19th floor and figured it must be even nicer from a 360-degree vantage point. The only problem was the elevator and room key card issued at check-in, which only allowed you up to the floor of the room you'd booked.
One afternoon while returning from lunch out with a friend I got into the elevator with who I assumed at the time was a member of the hotel staff. It was a logical assumption, as they were in the the uniform and had an armload of freshly laundered towels, somewhat nicer than the ones in my own room, but I figured they were meant for an executive suite or some such place - a level of lodging I rarely afford myself.
I won't identify them any further than that, but they got into the elevator, inserted their key card and punched the button for the top floor. It lit up, and I figured "oh, what the hell - let's just see what happens if I tag along," figuring the worst that could happen was they'd say "Hey, you can't come up here" if I didn't press the button for my own floor... but they didn't say a word.
It seemed like a sweet deal for me at the time: there must be a way to the roof garden, even if the floor they'd selected wasn't actually where it was, and so when the tone sounded as we reached the top, the doors opened and the person took off to their left with the towels, I held the "open door" button and peeked out of the elevator. It was quiet and not very well lit, as though nothing nearby was going to be used immediately. I could see a doorway to the stairwell nearby and figured it must lead up, and although the fact that it was trimmed in a manner far finer than the rest of them in the building's stairwells I decided to try it.
The possibility of that decision being a mistake came into focus when the elevator doors closed behind me, but I walked quietly to the stair doorway and pushed it open. It was dark in the stairwell, but there was enough light for me to see keypads on both my level and the top one that clued me in that if I entered and allowed the door to close behind me that I wasn't going to get out nearly as easily as I'd gotten in.
I turned to head back to the elevator in defeat, but by that time my eyes had adjusted to the dim light of the area around me, and wow... what a place I'd wandered into. Finely detailed teak and ebony furniture spread out through a large, formal doorway before me; a table for at least a dozen had been set with beautiful china and flatware, the fragrance of large fresh floral arrangements wafting toward me from the three big arrangements nearby.
Suddenly it came to me: this wasn't just a suite at the hotel - this was someone's home! Even though I had no idea previously I felt a little like a cat burglar, and I backed up towards the elevator, pressing the button to summon it back to take me downstairs.
It seemed to take an hour to get up to me. I could hear the cables moving and feel the mechanism rumbling as it ascended, but suddenly there was another sound - the sound of small bare feet, slapping on the marble flooring - and they were running my way!
A small boy - maybe eight or nine years old - appeared in the doorway at the far end of the dining room, a book in one hand, a toy car in the other. He stopped dead in his tracks, and I'm not sure to this day which of us was more surprised to see the other; the small barefooted kid in his sport shirt and shorts or the Big Pink Guy.
"Hello," I said, smiling, hoping he wouldn't start screaming bloody murder and earn me a ride in a police car. "I think I got off on the wrong floor." "I live here," he said, matter-of-factly, as though I should've known that already. "Well, you're a lucky boy to live way up here," I replied, thanking the spirits of the universe that the elevator had chimed and opened its doors behind me. "Bye!" he grinned, waving enthusiastically before turning to run off again. I could hear the slapping of his feet as the doors closed.
An employee I'd become acquainted with while staying there told me that the owner of the building kept the top two floors - three, if you include the rooftop - as their personal residence and they were more than mildly surprised that the security had been compromised enough to allow me up there at all. I assured them that I didn't do any harm and had only been there for maybe five minutes total. They smiled when I told him about my encounter with the boy there. "He can be a little devil," they laughed, but you could tell they felt some affection for him.
While heading down to my room immediately after it had happened I played a few scenarios in my head as to what sort of reaction he got while relating his meeting up with me to his mother or caregiver or whoever, but it was a story I've enjoyed telling... and now you've heard it, too.