Curious indeed how it is that the most momentous upheavals in human history can so often be traced back to such humble and apparently insignificant origins. The Great Indian Mutiny . . . from a rumour of animal fat on rifle cartridges. World War I . . . from the assassination of an obscure archduke. The Sadao Hash . . . from Rotten Johnny's casual stopovers in Dannok on his weekly Sunday commute from Songkhla to Sungai Petani.
Friendly and welcoming, Dannok struck RJ as an ideal venue for an occasional get-together with a few dozen Hashing friends from both sides of the Thai-Malaysia border. A bit of a run, a few jars of beer, perhaps a look at one of the sophisticated and tasteful cabaret acts at any of the glittering local nightclubs. What harm could possibly come of that?
Arrives the Baleful Day
The first indication I had of trouble came about a week before the event, in the form of an email from RJ bearing the subject line "S.O.S." Already 220 confirmed registrations, he said, and no signs of slowing. It seems we had seriously underestimated our fellow Hashers' hunger for a really big, really irresponsible party. Everywhere from Koh Samui to KL -- the better part of a thousand kilometers -- there were beer fumes and blood lust in the air.
Even so, I wasn't ready for the sight that awaited me on driving into Dannok early in the afternoon of March 2nd. Below a gaily painted welcome banner milled a large, surly crowd of louts of all creeds, colors, and races. They wore the ragtag uniforms of a dozen tribes, from sleek yellow Malaysian racing singlets to the bright orange "Run for Peace" shirts of the Hatyai Hash. The latter featured pictures of George Dubya and Saddam that made them look like Beavis and Butthead. Quite realistic, really.
Back on Soi 7 things were getting ugly. RJ and the indefatigable Galon were besieged at the registration desk in the lobby of the Hollywood Hotel. The hotel staff, inexplicably, were passing out bread rolls. The mob was spilling out of the lobby into the street and even up the stairs of a number of neighboring establishments, much to the alarm of their tender young female hospitality staff. I can't swear to it, but I think I might have seen one or two Hashers disappear into the nether regions of these establishments. No doubt they needed to pee.
Onto the Highway of Death
At this point the GMs gave up and disappeared, and the mob, like some giant primeval creature, surged off down the soi and across the Pan-Asian Highway, effectively halting for several minutes all traffic on the Kra Peninsula. Standing on the far side of the road was our transport: four towering ten-wheel dump trucks, freshly emptied of their dirt and now ready for a really nasty load.
And what a sight to behold, Hashers of all sizes and shapes (though mostly in the XL-XXL range) clambering up the sides of those trucks in full battle cry. For many it was to be the main physical exertion of the day. Off roared the trucks, through what we must reluctantly describe as the sleazy side of town (you'd never find our Hash meeting there!), the sight of which seemed to drive the assembled multitude into a frenzy of leering, shouting, waving, horn-honking, etc. We're lucky we didn't get shot at.
No sooner did the trucks turn the last corner out of town than everyone did something very strange: they all shut up. For ahead we could see the road snaking over the crest of a ridiculously steep hill and then disappearing into what looked to be a vast mining pit. Nervous glances passed between the now silent Hashers. This might be a serious run after all.
On and on went that drive, the trucks grinding up the hills and creaking down the backs of them, everyone hanging on for dear life. To our right, along the ridgeline, snaked the barbed wire border fence. Jungle, razor wire, men herded into dump trucks . . . was I the only one have River Kwai flashbacks? Evidently not, because by the time we finally reached and disboarded at the run site -- it felt about halfway to Betong -- there was a mad scramble back onto the trucks as soon as someone announced that they were returning to a "short run" site. If you were among them, please identify yourself at the next Sadao Hash and you may be eligible for a free Hello Kitty apron.
In any case there seemed to be a general sense of relief at every check and any other excuse to stop. And even the gung-ho types tended to linger around the 360s, looking at RJ the way a hungry mutt tries to beg a bone. But he of course wasn't talking. This at least had the effect of keeping everyone together most of the way, which was just as well since of course nobody had the faintest idea where we were or where we were going.
In time, quite a bit of time actually, we came upon the short run paper and some of the short run Hashers. And then out from the rubber and into the quaint garbage-strewn outskirts of town, finally up a broad concrete road under a ceremonial Muslim arch. Left turn on the Pan-Asian Highway and a triumphant romp down the hill to the Time Bottle Bar, where beer and beer girls awaited.
For a while, guzzling our cold Changs and feeling the admiring gazes of the street's female denizens at their first sight of the Hashing Male in all his après-run glory, those of us on the ice list had a fleeting hope that we wouldn't have to suffer the indignity of a circle. Perhaps Hash Host Sakorn had forgotten to get the ice. Maybe someone would realize that it was all just too out of control even to attempt a circle. Hope does spring eternal.
Well, dream on. There was ice and there was a circle and it was utter mayhem. I got more khlong water up my nose than beer down my throat, and I got off lightly compared to some of the poor bastards they dragged out there. There is a certain kind of Malaysian Hasher who is a holy terror when the ice work begins, and we had dozens of them. The people of Dannok have seen a great deal in the few years since they've become Thailand's new boom border town. But you could tell from the way they hid in the doorways that they'd never seen anything like this.
Anyhow, I have been assured that I had an excellent night on the town, culminating in some sort of giant disco about the size of Wembley Stadium with music at about the volume of the Space Shuttle liftoff. Wherever you ended up in the jungle, I trust you had an equally rewarding evening.