I was married once, just by chance. It was April in Bangkok and I was feeling so much younger than now, even though I wasn´t. It lasted only three days but time slows almost to a stop at the Atlanta Hotel; those hours and memories will remain there, trapped in that bizarre corner of the world forever.
The dim lights at that strange and hidden hotel’s entrance create an atmosphere almost unreal. Something like a vívid dream or the conscience of being just a character into a Raymond Chandler, Henry Miller, Agatha Christie' s novel. Something ridiculous. Something impossible. "Something it can´t happen and it won´t".
The air was chillingly decadent, with a stale scent likely emanating from the ancient light bulbs in the hallway that pushed up reality through the glass of a gansters movie. How creepy but excitant was walking around the different parts of the old lounge filled with the clutter of antique books, maps and city guides, with a generous collection of tourist warnings about the city, thai and Bangkok people or the way we, the farangs, arrogants westerns, had to behaviour to remain alive when death penalty was still on use.
The cozy hallway that has welcomed countless princes, princesses, writers and artists from all corners of the world still has "the same look and furnitures of the original Atlanta Hotel", as they proudly tell you upon check-in.
The Atlanta Hotel is more than just an old-fashioned place to stay; it is a time machine that takes its guests directly back to 1952. Everything remains exactly where it has always been: phones, portraits, mirrors, tables, chairs, and even an Atlanta Hotel handwritten letter. All is there as it was, unchanged, and you could feel it. You had to. How couldn´t you.
That hall made you feel like Grace Kelly even in the overwhelming heat of the Tropics; maybe that´s why all around the place there were readable unusual expressions in really old fashioned moods asking you to 'dress properly or you will have to look for another hotel, more suitable with your clothes'.
More an order than a request. All kind of reprobations installed at the majestic round red couch; the standing shining metal fans; the pair of long bronze-colored sausage dogs who watch over the place as babilonic sphinxes´... A sensuality even bigger due to those forbidden sins, highly recommended not to practise.
But everything at The Atlanta Hotel seems to fit, like part of some spellbound alternate dimension which surrounds it all of a frightening spell; such an energy that forced you up to stay there one night more, tied up to the story of that suspicious austriac, Dr. Henn, who founded this kind of moral reduct with his beloved and younger thai wife after World War II. So you look at their portraits and decide to stay, despite of the ghostly long dark corridors and the eerily silent fourth floor.
One faith false step and you could ruin it all in a minute. Had to become part of the spell to survive, in one way or another, as you were breathing that air.
After crossing the restaurant door, you knew Casablanca wouldn´t be a movie in your head anymore. A nice correct girl asks you to wait while you smell sweet big flowers around the desk. Sunlight passes through authentic bamboo blinds and large fans circulate a peaceful air throughout the room, creating a relaxing, polite, so classy oasis from the chaotic monster metropolis outside the confines of The Atlanta.An unusual spot to have a continental breakfast; as high business men, a refined countess from the old Russia or an international envoyee from any western and interested government, -who is there just to spy it all-, would do in your shoes.
Then, like in one of those illogical Chesire Cat´s riddles, you meet the lady who can feed you or not; "It depends whether she likes you or not. So please be polite ´cause she has been the maître at The Atlanta Hotel for more than 40 years and you are the one with more chances to leave if you both don´t get along”. An old, elegant thai woman with patient eyes but inquiring and severe sight who stares you in the eye as no other host in Thailand would do, and asks you for your name, chats with you for a while, tells you proudly who she is and how old she was when she first stepped at 'The Atlanta', and then treats you kindly ´cause she knows you are simply terrified but thrilled at the same time.
Characters from another time, in shots from another life. Another sounds, faces and tastes to keep in mind as lost treasures. Or maybe just to let them go, as The Atlanta should have gone time ago, swept out by age currents, carrying inside thousands of stories from a time that won´t come back; as the one we lived when it was always summer and you and me were, too, another people.
A just married, so in love, passionate and respectful catholic couple.
Mr. and Mrs.You.
Just by chance.
Mr. and Mrs.You.
Just by chance.