Remember When: The Hotel Fire in India

We managed to see our first ever wild Elephants while hiking within Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerela. It was a fantastic experience seeing these beautiful giants on foot, but not a safe one as we were charged by one and had to run for our lives. We were shattered by the end of the day so got an early night. We sat in bed watching a fascinating documentary on bears – had it not been for such an interesting program, we would of gone to bed already….

We were staying on the 2nd floor of a lovely hotel, surrounded by forest, tweeting birds and giant Mosquitos. A long balcony had small walls separating the three room with comfy chairs and a coffee table each. We were the only people staying there so picked the room in the far corner. We had it all to ourselves for the first two nights, but then six Indian bachelors checked into the two other rooms and took away our tranquil haven. I don’t even like hearing Craig breathing loudly next to me, so there was no way I’d sleep with them shouting and giggling outside. I decided I’d go out right before bed and tell them to shut up.

We were really sleepy but wanted to find out what happened to the bear cubs so stayed up to watch the 2nd episode. As it started we noticed a flickering orange colour through the curtains, but didn’t think much of it. We both figured the lads were using the small fire pit in the grounds below. All of a sudden we looked at each other in horror as we realised it wasn’t downstairs, it was outside our room. Craig wasn’t wearing any clothes so I ran out to see what was happening.

The Indians had set fire to the chair on the balcony right next to us. It wasn’t too bad, just the chair, but the foam set fire so quickly, the flames were high, and I knew it could spread really quickly. I ran back to Craig “FUCK!! FIRE!! We gotta run!!! SHIT!! Grab what you can!!!”. Our only exit was past the fire, why the hell did I grab our stuff? Within seconds though I had my heavy backpack and our day bag with all our valuables swung around me as if they weighed less than a feather. Craig wasn’t quite as quick and didn’t grab anything “FUCK, just leave it and RUN!!”.

We dashed out the room and the remaining chairs and table were blocking our exit. I was furious, the men were helpless, the fire was blazing and hissing, and they were pouring alcohol on it and laughing like school girls. I was screaming at them as I barged past, purposely squishing them with my backpack. We made it down to safety and I dumped the bags in the garden and ran down the track shouting for help.

The owner casually strolled out along the dark track in his baggy lungi pants, “yes?”, “FIRE, THERE’S A FIRE!!” I said, trying to catch my breath and pointing back towards our room. He clearly thought I was a hippy backpacker tripping on some local concoction. He didn’t understand what fire was, till I pointed to his little camp fire, and then up to the room, and he was off in a flash.

From what we could see the fire was out, and just smoke left. The owner started chatting in Hindi to the guys at the first balcony and then he obviously saw the next balcony and he erupted with anger. In English, he shouted “YOU BAAAASTARDS!!!! YOU ABSOLUTE BAAAASTARDS!!!!” He demanded they left and pay up for the damage, and then he came back down to us asking if we wanted to make a police report.

While we were shaking downstairs we saw two of the men go into our open room. We were too scared to go up, they were off their faces (Indians cannot handle booze like us Brits). Craig’s bag was still in the room though, so we ran up and they quickly snuck out. We couldn’t see anything missing but we think they had drugs on them and tried to dispose them in our room incase the police came.

The balcony was a state. This little block of 6 rooms were all brand new (the lower ones still being decorated) and these fuckers had wrecked it. Two chairs had been set alight, bottles and cigarettes strewn everywhere, and the ceilings were black and covered in soot. The windows were wrecked and cracked, and little fingerprints were smeared on the black walls where the owner had tested how bad it would be to clean. Pretty bad, but it could of been a lot work.

We were moved to a small bungalow which wasn’t as nice as our original room. Worst of all, we found our bear documentary had finished and we’d missed the end!

After speaking to other hotel owners, elsewhere in India we were interested to find that a lot of people running hotels aimed at tourists, don’t except Indians. Mainly bachelors, family’s with children, and young couples (doesn’t leave many others really) as they have no respect for the rooms and wreck them.

Always know your escape route.

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