Somerset Maugham arrives at the Oriental
Bangkok / Siam (today Thailand)
"The hotel faced the river. My room was dark, one of a long line, with a verandah on each side of it, the breeze blew through, but it was stifling. The dining-room was large and dim, and for coolness" sake the windows were shuttered. One was waited on by silent Chinese boys. I did not know why, the insipid Eastern food sickened me. The heat of Bangkok was overwhelming. The wats oppressed me by their garish magnificence, making my headache."
Maugham felt ill: "I took my temperature. I was startled to see that it was a hundred and five. I could not believe it, so I took it again; it was still a hundred and five." Maugham had contracted malaria while travelling. "Towards the end of my journey down Siam the officer in command of the post had insisted that I should stay in his own house. He gave me his best bedroom. I had not the heart to say that I preferred my own little camp-bed, which had a mosquito-net, to his, which had not. The anopheles snatched at the golden opportunity." Maugham fell seriously ill at the hotel. It was a bad attack. For some days the quinine had no effect on him.
One morning he overheard a conversation between Mme Maria Maire, and the doctor. "I can"t have him die here, you know. You must take him to the hospital." The doctor replied: "All right. But we"ll wait a day or two yet." "Well, don"t leave it too long," she replied. Only a few days later Maugham suddenly recovered. "And because I had nothing to do except look at the river and enjoy the weakness that held me blissfully to my chair I invented a fairy story." *
In 1925 Maugham was back in Bangkok, stopping again at The Oriental, and he stayed for two weeks in perfect health, much to Mme Maire"s relief. On his last visit to Bangkok in 1960 to celebrate his 85th birthday he reminisced: "I was almost evicted from The Oriental because the manager did not want me to ruin her business by dying in one of her rooms."
From the book: The Oriental, Bangkok; by Andreas Augustin and Andrew Williamson in the series THE MOST FAMOUS HOTELS IN THE WORLD".
The Gentleman in the Parlour - an early edition.