A trip to Thailand - a tale of five pianos
This summer, I've managed to scratch another continent off my bucket list - I've been to Asia for the very first time!
More specifically, to Thailand, where I've skedaddled about happily for four entire weeks.
There's one problem with Thailand, though... because despite the fact that it is absolutely steeped in culture, that culture doesn't exactly include pianos.
But of course I managed to find a few.
The very first doesn't really count as Thailand, because it's at Schiphol. We were on the way to the gate when I spotted this lovely little grand and promptly hijacked it. I played for about ten minutes, even gathering a little audience - but unfortunately, I had to cut my impromptu concert short because we were in danger of being called out for our flight...
The second was a slightly more traumatic experience.
Chiangmai is one of the largest cities in the north of Thailand, and according to Google there is exactly one piano store there. Having not seen a piano at all for two weeks, I thought it might be nice to at least see what they had on offer.
What they had on offer was six uprights that were so damp on the inside you wouldn't even be able to use them for firewood, and one grand...
The ivory literally fell off the keys when I opened the lid. And not one key. Oh no. All of them.
Cue the horror music.
The third was lovely, though. We'd moved on to Pai, which is basically backpackers' paradise, and we were walking down Main Street when I saw it in a coffee house. I asked the owner if I could have a go. He answered, "only if you can play".
The upright had basically been in the open air for years, which - it being Thailand - varies between extremely damp and extremely not. I also doubt whether it had been tuned in the last year, or whether that would even make a difference at this point.
But it responded very well to some light Liszt, Mendelssohn, Grieg and even a little Chopin (Satie, unfortunately, was too much for the poor instrument to carry).
The best part was that after my first piece, the owner came up to me and told me very sternly that I would be fined if I played less than half an hour.
The fourth piano was back in Chiangmai - to my surprise, there was a Yamaha store Google didn't know about. If you ever need a piano in Chiangmai, buy it from there - the instruments are quite good - but don't expect to be able to play for a while, because the store is quite busy!
The fifth and final piano I found in Bangkok. On our very last night I saw a grand piano in the hotel lobby, so of course I inquired as to whether I could give it a tune.
They told me it was more for decoration, it hadn't been tuned in years and they didn't know if it actually still worked.
Cue the horror music. Again.
So the moral of the story - don't expect to find a piano in Thailand, but if you do look for it, coffee houses are the way to go. Especially nice ones in Pai.