A Fire In Hua Hin
There's nothing worse than losing your child in a block fire.
After our idyllic rest in Petchburi, we were off again. Just two hours south of Petchburi is Hua Hin, a fabulous seaside town with cute guesthouses all over the place. We made our way from the station on a tuk-tuk.
When we were staying in a small town, it wasn't long before my daughter made friends with all the local kids. I let her go to their houses and do things in the area with them because it was safe and she had so much fun with them. She had to always tell me where she was going. Some people thought I was slack with my daughter's safety because I could read their expressions, but I didn't believe in keeping her beside me every second of the day. She'd be bored. If I was drinking coffee downstairs and my daughter came running up with a friend to tell me she was off again to do something else, I was sometimes asked "You just let her go off like that?" Um, yes, but if I didn't get a good vibe about the kid she'd met it would be no.
The rules were: the kids had to bring her back and she wasn't allowed on the beach or the main streets. Do these kids look threatening? Does my daughter look like she's not enjoying herself?
Aimee's little friends brought her to the local school one day, perhaps she was show and tell. I didn't know exactly where the school was, but it wasn't that far away. I was having a coffee and reading the newspaper at the Headrock Cafe when suddenly I heard a great commotion and shouting coming from up the street. I looked up and saw a commotion. When I stood up to see what was going on, I gulped when I saw people running towards me clutching their belongings and dragging suitcases and wooden wagons and anything else they could carry. They were yelling in Thai words that I couldn't understand and I looked around for somebody who could tell me what was going on.
Then I saw the smoke, billowing plumes of smoke rising above the flimsy wooden Hua Hin guesthouses that lined the street. Hidden behind the guesthouses were all the small huts, rooms, and lean-tos that house all the local Thais, and as I watched terrified people race by me, I wondered where the hell the local school was.
Couches, chairs, dishes, bed-boards, mirrors, mattresses, clothing, tools - everything that could be dragged from their houses was in the street and stacked in towering heaps. People in their panic started throwing water at the fire from small pots and pans, which made about as much sense as bailing out a sinking ship with a cup.
All of a sudden there was a roar from the flames and it looked like it was going to burn the whole block of houses down. The flames were racing up the dry tinder posts near to our guesthouse. Holy shit. Where's Aimee?
I raced up the stairs of my guesthouse two at a time and got my money and passport, then raced back down and into the crowd to search for Aimee. I didn't know if she was still at the school or what. Where the hell is the school? I ran around the streets calling her name, panicking, then circled back towards our guesthouse hoping she'd come back there. If they didn't get to the fire soon, every house would burn down because they were all built from wood.
It seemed longer than it was, but finally I heard sirens and horns blaring from the two fire trucks that were now snarled up in the narrow streets, desperately trying to navigate through the people and the household gear that was strewn everywhere, blocking the alleys. I tripped over furniture and pushed past people, including the firemen with their hoses aimed at the buildings, searching the crowds for what seemed like hours trying to find her when all of a sudden I heard 'Mommy! Mommy!' in the distance. I scanned the road again.
I couldn't see her, but she ran up behind me with her three little friends and grabbed on to me, babbling her story of the evacuation from the school and everybody running home and wasn't it scary? I grabbed her hand, breathing a huge sigh of relief. At the end of the street, we waited with all the others until the fire was extinguished and it was safe to go back in again.
Amazingly the firemen put it out - a catastrophe was thwarted!
Takiak Hill overlooking Hua Hin