The Padacia
Notes from a pad in Oslo


Day 3/6 | Wednesday 20021106 | Red Lights, Wet City

Finding a hotel the previous night had not been fun at all. The car was parked at a lot and we walked around viewing one accommodation after another. The rates were appalling and in a few cases, the rooms were sorrier than the ones I had seen in Mumbai. Not that I mind dilapidated hotel rooms, in fact I find them rather charming, but when prices are that high, you'd be a fool not to look around. Comparing rates and conditions, the pursuit to get our euros' worth led us to Hotel Kabul. Room 29 was selected mainly because of the view it offered through its three wide windows – the canal in the foreground and the neon signs of Damrak beyond.

We began our first daylight in Amsterdam with a canal boat tour. A touristy cliché but the ride was surprisingly relaxing and informative. Among other facts, I learned that there are 165 canals and most of them were dug by hand in the early 17th century, and that there are more than 1000 bridges there. The boat, less than a quarter filled by late-autumn tourists, skillfully passed locks and dykes, chic boathouses, undaunted ducks and swans, and most appealing, the architecture of the seemingly endless buildings by the waters. Some houses give The Leaning Tower of Pisa a good run for its money and not very pleasantly, I noticed for the first time that Hotel Kabul was one of those structures looking ready to collapse.

Hotel Kabul is on the edge of the Red Light District. The signs above every door and the light from every window of the RLD illuminated the drizzle like pastel strokes against a dark background. Jumbled between restaurants and pubs, flashy signs screamed Sex, Theater, Videos, Toys, Naked Girls, Gay, and Leather. Windows were overdressed with magazines old and new, blow-up dolls that looked shocked, dildos from the classic dong to the latest Bel-Ami model, nipple clamps, cat-o-nines, rubber suits, silicone vaginas, cock rings and long rubber gloves. Step inside and you'll find more.

In the alleys, girls in various stages of undress smiled and beckoned when I caught their gazes behind their glass doors. It felt rude to look into their world, especially since I had no intention of doing business with them but the setting intrigued me. I slowed my pace to absorb the atmosphere. Red lights behind every door showcased the tiny room each girl was in; just big enough for a single bed. I saw one girl sitting, writing what looked like a long letter. In another cubicle sat another, flipping through a magazine and biting a nail. A man approached the door where the reading girl was and tapped on it. She answered his call and they conversed at the door. She opened the door wide for him to enter. The door closed behind them, a curtain was drawn, and the red light disappeared.

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