Friday, March 1, 2013

Ten years after: Rehash of Sadao H3 #1

The following is the complete original rehash of Sadao Hash Run #1 as it appeared in The Scum, the legendary Songkhla Hash publication, in March 2003. Photos by Ken Straiton.

A Twist of Fate

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?

And so it was that, once again, a clash of cultures and the innocent desire to "have a good time" led to chaos, violence, and mass atrocity. And it was the geopolitical fate of the poor little town of Dannok – like Austria-Hungary  in 1914, like Poland in 1939 – to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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.

Many of these degenerates were already clutching beers and, judging by their slurred attempts at speech, lurching movements, drooling, etc., had been doing so at least since dawn, if not the night before. A quick trip around the local hotels confirmed that many must have come down early: there wasn't a room left in the whole town. I was almost reduced to bribing the day manager to slip me into the infamous K.Y. House before discovering that the Songkhla Hash had booked a block of rooms at Jojo Court, our usual recce HQ, and that a few of them hadn't arrived yet. I never did find out whose room I stole.

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

Just when it seemed that mass anarchy would envelop the entire town, Rotten Johnny, Bogeh/Duckfart, and Bapa Ayam appeared, like a three-headed deity, atop the stairs of the Hollywood/No Bra entertainment complex. The crowd jeered. RJ attempted to use his bullhorn. More jeering. The GMs waved some squares of paper, which apparently had something to do with the run. Nobody could hear a damn thing. Excited gesturing from the GMs. In short, utter chaos. But then what else had we been expecting?

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.

The Run
 
Once the dust settled we realized that we had only about 30 hounds ready to start the long run. Fortunately they included several of the young, gung-ho Hatyai types who we can usually count on to trot off and find checks while we of a more, uh, contemplative bent strike thoughtful poses around the 360, identify new plant species, examine our latest skin rashes, etc.

RJ, as lead hare, was appropriately vague about the exact number of checks and other hazards. And so no choice but off we went, up and down a series of long rolling hills that were probably steeper than they looked. Add to that the dusty, broken ground and the layers of old leaves as slippery as banana peels. And perhaps, even to macho Hashing icons like ourselves, the lingering psychological effect of that endless ride out there. It really did feel like we were a long ways from anywhere.

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.

The Circle

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.

Dark Mysteries
 
One of the mysteries of Hashing is how you can be running along one moment with five or six other people, and then turn a corner or take the tiniest of shortcuts and suddenly . . . where did everybody go? You never see them again. It's as if the jungle just swallows them up.
Sunday night in Dannok was a bit like that. Strolling down a colorful soi one minute with a gang of mates, and then suddenly finding yourself alone . . . well, not alone, but not with them, and not anywhere you've ever been before or could ever get back to again. Couldn't have been the beer, could it?

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.

[We can report on at least a few Songkhla Hashers. There was a surprisingly good seafood dinner at the dubious “Dannok Restaurant”, at which Dungbeetle demonstrated his mastery of Thai by ordering a soup bowl. They brought him a bottle of beer. Fukawi’s main mission seemed to be to find roti, though he was spotted later at the Winner Café, sitting on one of those sleazy Japanese airport VIP lounge sofas with a couple of the guest relations officers. Stick Insect kept turning up like a bad penny, in an increasingly agitated state. When last seen at the Hollywood he was about to do the unspeakable – chat up a couple Songkhla Hash girls. Rotten Johnny actually carried on after the Space Shuttle disco closed at 2 am., setting himself up at a table on the street, surveying the aftermath of the carnage he had wrought. “A great day!” said someone to Khun Sakorn, the long-suffering mine host of the Time Bottle Bar. Sakorn gave him a look of infinite fatigue and said, “At least it’s over.”]

2 comments:

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