Paula Abdul and Mr. Kay

“Lost in a dream, don’t know which way to go, if you are all that you seem, then baby I’m movin’ way too slow,” he sang excitedly as he walked spiritedly, but ever so slightly skipping. “This is where we’ll put the four thousand watt spots,” he said promptly dropping the melodic tone as he pointed up to the intricately patterned Rattanakosin edges of the oriental structure. “Behringer monitors all the way across here and four pairs of Yamaha floor speakers over there,” he continued, seamlessly motioning across an elaborate array of Ayutthayan-themed carvings and figures. “Sound will flood this whole beach,” he exclaimed proudly, juxtaposed against the Hindi-inspired iconographic backdrop. “You’ll hear it for miles.”

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Mr. Kay, as he is known, is a huge Paula Abdul fan, as well as an experienced, road-hardened audio-visual genius and concert planner. Here he was in one of the darkest corners of Asia, scoping out potential locations for an upcoming New Year’s special featuring Paula.

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“Elephants: Need to have elephants in the show,” he asserted dryly. “Don’t know if she likes elephants, though, or if she’s touchy on the whole animal rights thing, I’ll need to check,” he noted to himself quietly. “I’ve got one over here just in case.” Mr. Kay seemed like the type of guy that works in his sleep.

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The site was very impressive indeed, and would make for a truly great show, I thought to myself as I was leaving after receiving a short impromptu tour. But why Paula Abdul I wondered, is she still doing gigs? I could hear Mr. Kay picking up on the song again as I started up the stairs. “Straight up now tell me, do you really want to love me forever oh oh oh, or am I caught in a hit and run …”

 

The Prince of Darkness

Nestled atop a bucolic hill in the southern Laos panhandle, overlooking the mighty Mekong River and the sleepy town of Pakse, with cultivated rice paddies as far as you can see, is the majestic Champasak Palace Hotel. Commissioned by monarchy in the 1960s before the communist revolution, the impressive palace was designed for governance and to befit the sovereign needs of its ruler, the Prince of Champasak. Alas, due to a history of contemporaneous inevitability the regional ruler never got to use his new digs. Nonetheless this Champasak chateau has continued to oversee the Laotian landscape with majestic splendor for a half century.

The expansive fourth floor of the palace

The expansive fourth floor of the palace

Today it is a three-and-a-half-star hotel that pops up online offering free breakfast and wifi for the intrepid internet-enabled traveler. And it is fabulous. Along with the Golden Buddha and the immense stone Buddha the Champasak Palace is a must-see for every Paske visitor. You have to ask yourself, when was the last time you stayed in a real palace for $30? My first-cousin-once-removed and I had two separate rooms, which pretty much commanded the entire fourth floor of the sprawling compound.

This immense stone Buddha awaits you in Pakse

This immense stone Buddha awaits you in Pakse

One must, however, accept some of the little vagaries that come with hostelry conversion of a Laotian citadel. The staircase leading to the inviting but strangely uninhabited rooftop bar is pitch black and the walk from the rooms to the elevator is completely exposed to the elements. Perhaps most noticeable, however, is the outright absence of glass windows throughout the royal residence. You see, the prince had in mind the extensive use of wooden slatted French doors, which in a palatial heyday would have opened up each room to magnificent views and an abundance of sunlight. But today, in a standard hotel bedroom configuration, each French double door is blocked in entirety by a clutter of furnishings thereby denying all solar access, ceding one’s eminence to the Prince of Darkness.

View from the room if it had a window

View from the room if it had a window