FIRE!!! Our Chiang Mai hotel catches fire

Chiang Mai Fire Department on site at Tarin Hotel fire

Chiang Mai Fire Department on site at Tarin Hotel fire

It’s 02:15h – the middle of the night, and we’re at the Tarin Hotel in Chiang Mai, having been bused there for the night after our Shanghai Airlines flight had been cancelled.

I’m in a deep sleep.  Ingrid gently shakes my shoulder, quietly wakening me.

Ingrid:  Honey, wake up.  I think our hotel’s on fire.

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Instantly awake, I jump out of bed and look the black out drapes.  It’s pitch black except for a few dim street lamps.  I see smoke between our building and the one next door.

I think to myself, “This is just Ingrid’s super sensitive sense of smell.”

Me:  (Not alarmed)  ‘It looks like the fire is in the buidling next door.’

Ingrid:  ‘I was in the washroom and I heard two big bangs.  Like the sound of rail cars banging into each other.  Then the lights went out.’

Me:  ‘Get dressed.  Our hotel is on fire.  If the lights went out, that means it’s an electrical fire.  Get dressed.  Grab your passport and money.’

It’s pitch black in our room.  I grab my iPhone and turn on the flashlight function, and use it find our clothes.  We dress quickly.

I’m slightly smug.  In obsessive-compulsive fashion, I’ve laid out my wallet, passport and travel documents well organized in a neat row on the room’s desk.  I’m ready to go.  I shine the light on Ingrid’s side of the room so she can find her purse and passport.  We leave the room and enter the hallway.

Again I’m smug, having noticed on arrival our room is at the end of the hallway and the stairwell is immediately to the left of our door.  I open our hotel room door, feel for the door handle of the stairwell exit and point the iPhone’s light into the darkness.

The stairwell is filled with smoke.

Me:  ‘We can’t go this way.  (The stairwell) is filled with smoke.  We have to go to the main stairwell beside the elevator.’

Now, we can smell smoke in the hallway.  There are no lights on, and no fire alarm is ringing.  As we walk briskly along the corridor Ingrid and I are banging on doors to hopefully rouse those who might still be in their rooms.

We proceed down the unlit main stairwell.  On the next floor down, Floor 4, the smoke smell gets stronger, and we can hear the faint sound of a fire alarm; it’s coming from the 3rd floor.

In the main stairwell, other guests are evacuating, some hauling larger pieces of luggage.

We safely reach the main floor and lobby.  Outside the hotel’s main doors, numerous guests are crowded, just hanging around.

The Chiang Mai Fire Department has already arrived, but the firefighters are merely standing around, as do the police.

There is no crowd control, and the emergency responders don’t appear to to doing anything, let alone moving in any semblance of haste.

People continue to leave the hotel, and some even go back in to retrieve goods.  Nobody seems to be stopping them.

At around 03:45h, hotel staff tell me I’ll be accompanied by two staff to return to our room and collect our luggage.  Two male staff with flashlights walk me up the stairs through the smoke to our fifth floor room.  With the light of their two flashlights, I can see enough to re-pack our two carryon suitcases, and the two staffers carry my luggage outside the hotel.

At 04:30h, three shuttle buses arrives and take us along with the other passengers from our cancelled flight back to Chiang Mai’s airport for our flight to Shanghai that connects to Vancouver and back to Edmonton.

Such are the adventures of world travel!



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