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Christmas Day – Fire!

On Christmas Day, I was one of the first guests down for breakfast. Most people were still sleeping off the Gala Dinner, but I had a full day of sightseeing planned and had agreed an early pick-up with my guide. So at about 07:30 I was finishing my third cup of tea, and just starting to think about going back to my room to put on suncream and insect repellent, and to change my sandals for some sturdy boots for scrambling over yet more temples.

Suddenly, there was a commotion outside – shouts and raised voices. I thought that there was an argument going on, and decided to keep out of it. Then a terrified-looking man ran into the restaurant from the street and dashed off in the direction of Reception. One of the very few other guests in the dining room wandered outside to see what all the fuss was about, and returned immediately, his face ashen, shouting “Fire!”. The building next door to the hotel was on fire. It wasn’t just smouldering, it was well alight, and the fire was threatening to spread to the adjacent buildings, including the hotel.

At that point, the electricity in the hotel went off. Clearly, it was time to get out. One is so conditioned by fire drills to get out and stay out, and not to collect any personal belongings. But my room was right next to the front entrance to the hotel and I had to pass it as I evacuated the building. So I decided that it was safe enough to just dash into my room to grab essentials. The room was of course in pitch darkness. It had heavy wooden shutters on the windows, which were closed, and all the lights were out. I located and opened the mini-safe by feel and grabbed my passport and spare money. I also grabbed my hand-luggage and suitcase, and dashed back outside.

By now the hotel was being evacuated. There was no fire alarm as such – I think the hotel staff went round hammering on doors. Many people had clearly just got out of bed and some were in dressing gowns. We all moved to the office building next door to the hotel, on the other side of it from the fire. My driver met me there, and put my bags in the boot of his car. Then I sat on the step and watched the commotion while I waited for my guide.

A fire engine turned up about half an hour after the alarm had first been raised – far too late to save the building, but hopefully in time to stop the blaze spreading to the adjacent properties. Another ten minutes later, a second fire engine arrived, simultaneously with my guide. So at that point, I went off sightseeing, not knowing whether the hotel would still be there again when I got back…….. At least I had my passport, money and a change of clothes with me, and everything else was covered by insurance. All round the temples that day I kept thinking of things I’d left in my room, and wondering whether I would see them again…..

I got back mid afternoon, to find the hotel thankfully intact, and a huge puddle of water on the road. The building next door (accounts varied as to whether it was a private house or an office building) was completely burnt down and the ruins were already being demolished by a gang of workmen. From what I understood from the other guests, the fire brigade had concentrated on stopping the fire from spreading, and had basically allowed the fire to burn itself out. No one was hurt, thankfully, though certainly livelihoods would have been ruined as there is very little buildings insurance there, so the owner will have lost a great deal of money. It was almost certainly an electrical fault which started the blaze, and according to my guide the town gets around two such fires a week on average. Scary!

When I went to Reception to pick up the key, the staff handed me a very apologetic note from the General Manager, sincerely apologising for the “shock and inconvenience” caused by the fire, which was after all completely outside the hotel’s control. He further “recognised the disturbance and bother that the incident had caused to the quality of your holiday experience” and offered me a choice of either a complementary massage at the attached spa, or a free three-course meal at the hotel restaurant, to “contribute to lifting your spirits and calming your senses after these troublesome events”. I thought that was very good of the hotel, and certainly in excess of what one might have expected. After the massage the previous day, I was in absolutely no hurry to repeat that particular experience, but I was very happy to accept the offered dinner instead.

{ 2 } Comments

  1. Hugh W | 30 December 2011 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Hi Gillian,

    It is good to hear that you were OK. Must have been quite a shock. I think going sight seeing for the day was the best option, it saved you worrying all the time. We will look forward to seeing some of the photos.

    May the New Year bring you better times.


  2. Catharine | 30 December 2011 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    Yow! I’m glad you (and everyone else) was OK.