Chiangrai Condotel, where construction noise is more important than the people who live there.

[Update: March 30, 2015. I made this post “private” for a while because I didn’t want to be a jerk, and was willing to give Condotel the benefit of the doubt and another chance. They didn’t deserve it. The continued asshole attitude of those responsible for the ongoing construction renders any blowback insignificant in comparison, so I’ve made my assessment public again. If you are looking for a place to live, and you are going to be there regularly during the day between about 10 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., I strongly advise you to not move here. If you have never experienced a crew of workers drilling and hammering into your ceiling, sledgehammering out walls, and drilling dorways through concrete, you have no idea how horrendous it is. The official policy is that owners of individual units are allowed to completely remodel them, irregardless of how loud the process is. Month-long projects involving heavy drilling and hammering into concrete, combined with shrill sawing and drilling are normal and frequent.

The owners justify their actions under the thin rationalization that they should be allowed to improve their own property. However, nobody has the right to destroy someone else’s home life by inflicting weeks of unimaginably loud, and unhealthy noise on them (you are trapped indoors in an indoor construction sight. Imagine that for a while). 

It is a fact that loud construction noise – we are talking decibals of construction noise that are considered workplace hazards – not only damages hearing, but causes mental and health problems! At Condotel we have noise levels indoors which are usually associated with outdoor construction. The negative impact on anyone staying inside while construcion is going on is going to be severe.

Naturally, the people responsible for the construction could not bear or tolerate being subjected themselves to the level of noise they think it’s OK to subject others to. From my standpoint, you should never be allowed to do that kind of heavy construction inside a building where people are living, for extended periods, when there is no emergency. When someone is using a sledgehammer or jackhammer drill on walls you share, it is infuriating. When it goes on for hours on end, weeks in a row, it is FUCKING INSANE! Therefore, the condo should have posted signs notifying anyone who is a perspective renter of the situation of extreme, ongoing, heavy, indoor construction. People should be well aware of that policy before they move in!

However, if you are a retiree looking for a completely Western atmosphere to sequester yourself in within Asia, and you can totally avoid being here in the day, it’s probably a good fit for you.

Below is my original post, written when construction was at full intensity the night before Christmas.]

There are many obstacles to being an artist in the 21st century. There are the obstacles to survival, and then there are the impediments to just being able to work at all. At the moment I have a couple precious weeks of uninterrupted time off, where I can focus on art from the time I wake up until I go to sleep. Or so I thought.. Enter The Return of EXTREMELY INVASIVE INCOMPETENT ONSITE CONSTRUCTION!!!

I know I’ve done nothing to deserve this, and it’s a cruel injustice, but out of powerlessness one still wants to implore the nonexistent gods with, “Dear God, what the F have I done to deserve this shit?!”

I live in an apartment building, which is called a “condotel” – specifically the Condotel in Chiang Rai – because it also rents out units on a nightly basis. I didn’t discover until after I moved in, and was promised that it was quiet and there was no neighboring construction, that it is actually in the process of ongoing interior complete remodeling. In other words, it’s being rebuilt from the inside out. There is no notification that this is going on for the forseable future, probably because they don’t want prospetive renters to know. This may sound really annoying, but it’s more than that. It’s horrific.

[Note: After writing this I let it sit for a couple days to see if things would settle down after I complained. This morning I was awoken to loud banging which sounds like it’s coming from right above my head, which is odd because they already remodeled that unit. Also, there are those types that will say I am just not used to living in Asia. Uh, no. I’ve lived in China for over 4 years, and Vietnam, and three cities in Thailand already. I’ve been subjected to all manner of infernal racket. This is exceptionally bad/stupid. And if you can get beyond the language barrier, honest locals feel the same way about the noise. People are not so different. Besides which, a majority of the owners here are Westerners, and there was a Christmas dinner in the restaurant last night.]

This construction has taken place for roughly 30% of days I’ve lived here, and sometimes goes on for weeks on end. I merely endured the first month or so of infernal racket, as a restaurant was being created in the lobby, thinking there was quiet at the end of the tunnel. But then it never stopped, and as you probably guessed, it’s happening right now. Yes, there is hammering, sawing, and drilling. All of the individual units are being remodeled, one after another, for the foreseeable future.

The noisiest place I’ve lived in Thailand, Vietnam, or China!

At one point I could no longer imagine what need there could be for more than a couple day’s worth of non-stop hammering and drilling in a concrete building. I looked around my own apartment and couldn’t see anything that needed much if any hammering or drilling. And yet the drilling in concrete is extremely invasive, because the vibrations equal the sound, and even if you flatten your palms firmly against both ears, you can’t shut out the vibrations. So, I decided to investigate.

I followed the clamoring to the eighth floor, where there was an open doorway and workmen inside. What I saw exceeded my worst suspicions. There was a workman using an oversized drill (it’s actually a jackhammer-drill) to drill into the wall. This can be felt through most of the building. But it’s worse than that. Much worse. The reason he’s drilling through the wall, via multiple attempts, is in order to create one in hundreds of perforations as a way to cut a doorway through the wall. It all became clear instantly. There was the drawn outline of a doorway, and I could see dozens of holes he’d already drilled. This would be as efficient as the proverbial scrubbing the floor with a toothbrush, but incredibly loud.

After all the perforations are made, then comes the knocking the center out with a sledgehammer. Obviously this can also be felt in ones bones. And the drilling reminds me of when I had a cavity drilled. You can feel it in your head. And this goes on for days on end.

Finally I couldn’t take it anymore. Not only was it utterly ridiculous to have this kind of hard, structural construction going on while people are living in the building (and it was just my luck that the apartment immediately beneath me was completely remodeled, as well as several others in close proximity), it was obviously being done in a wildly inefficient, and sloppy way. In short, the noise was not only unendurable, it was unnecessary.

I suppose I’m too old to just think “that’s the way things are” and too young to not have given up. I fully realize that people are responsible for most problems in the world, and people can fix them. It’s really that simple. The workers are taking orders, and someone made a call to tell them to do it. This is all arranged. So, unlike most of the people here, I went to do something about it.

Being that I live in Thailand, the first option to address a concern in the building is going to be the receptionist at the front desk, whose English is about on par with my Thai (I might be being a little generous here). That doesn’t really prove useful at all, and honestly just increases frustration, because I’m actually trying to do something and can’t. Then I remembered seeing a middle-aged white guy sitting in an office on the second floor, and things were so bad that I decided to disturb him in the hopes of getting some information, such as who the hell I could contact to find out anything at all about the ongoing construction.

Construction noise is the number one complaint.

This guy turned out to be an owner of the restaurant and other property in the building, and was well aware of the problem. Construction noise is the number one complaint here. And even though he’d been responsible for a goodly portion of the recent noise, he also agreed that the ongoing incompetent construction was over-the-top, and he himself had suggested at a board meeting banning construction for a few months to let the tenants have some peace of mind.

The assembled owners shot down his suggestion with both barrels. They want to renovate their apartments so they can begin renting them (to people who will be miserable because of all the other construction, but will have already signed a lease, so will be trapped), and don’t give a flying crap about anyone else. Man would I like to step out of my apartment while the jack-hammer drilling is going on, and give them a quick elbow to the face, and see if that can jar some recognition into them that people who live here are made of flesh, bone, and elbows. Of course I would never do such a thing, but the racket is so enervating that it drives one to fantasies of vengeance on those responsible.

And that’s what the “owners” are not getting. They blithely hide behind the abstract rhetoric of the businessman’s right to turn a profit, and ignore the reality that they are making it impossible for tenants to be in their own homes during the “working hours” of 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (or 6:30 if it goes over a bit) for days or weeks on end. But the guy in the office on the 2nd floor got it. He could see both sides of the equation and wanted to make intelligent compromises so that the Thais and expats (expats can’t legally buy houses in Thailand, but they can buy condos) could ramp up their expected proceeds, and the people who live in the Condotel can relax at home without feeling like they are being punished for wrongs done in a past life.

He came up with a solution that was workable. How about the workers don’t start until 10:00 a.m., and finish by 2:00? And how about there are notices so everyone knows when the construction is going to happen, and there’s a phone number where people can reach the owner if there’s a problem or if we want to find out more information. That seemed reasonable. Four hours of construction was a lot better than nine. And at least we could feel like there was an attempt at informing us. I could plan around the construction.

Further, this guy was a builder by trade before moving to Asia, and not only did he know that there were easy ways to do the construction quickly and less obtrusively, he was willing to loan his own equipment, such as a saw that could cut through the brick and concrete in minutes rather than days of drilling, and a tool for scoring and snapping tile, instead of sawing through it. He argued for these ideas at the next board meeting.

Happily, the non-cooperative owners begrudgingly acknowledged that, while deep down other people didn’t mean shit to them and they hadn’t evolved beyond only thinking of themselves, it wasn’t in their own self-serving, selfish, self interest to drive out their own tenants, who they were hoping to turn a profit off of. So they accepted limiting the level of abusive noise to certain hours. And this made me feel much better. I could ride out my contract instead of having to move under duress (again).

I could live with an intelligent compromise. I could take long lunches, and go on marathon bike rides. I could plan ahead and time things. We could all work together. Sure. Cooperation is the way to go. That’s how our species survived. It’s called “civilization”. And the best part is that everyone benefits. The workers can’t go wrong by working more effectively with the right equipment, and less damage to their hearing and general wellbeing. The owners wouldn’t lose tenants and the whole atmosphere would be better, with a sense of openness, intelligence/competence, and kind consideration for guests. And of course, the tenants wouldn’t be paying to live in a purgatory of abrassive noise.

Nope! Competition is where it’s at, and making other people miserable gives some people a hard on, and makes them feel more contented in their own existence (which the lack of understanding or appreciation of fellow human beings suggests to me isn’t that great of one). Socrates famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. Surely, if you can’t figure out that pounding and drilling into brick and concrete is disruptive to others, and compromising is the least you can do, you are an unexamined life, or as I would rather put it, a steaming pile of shit on the sidewalk.

And then yesterday, well, it became apparent that rules are for rule-abiding people, and then there are those who think they are above them. Drilling through the walls began, as did the accompanying hammering, whacking, and every imaginable kind of bang and thud. Nor did it cease at 3:00 p.m.

At around 4:00 I went down to see WTF was going on. This was like trying to make a sand castle out of dry sand. Nobody knew anything, no sign was posted, and nothing could be done. Of course people were sorry, sorry. Next time someone tells me they’re sorry, I’ll try hard not to say, “If you are sorry, do something!” I came back up slumping into the awareness that nothing has changed, and there’s nothing I can do.

I’d even seen a worker waiting for the elevator, electric saw in hand (for ear-splitting tile cutting, as opposed to the quiet score-and-snap method). It told him in Thai that you have to stop at three in the afternoon. He told me and a staff person that he was taking the saw up for tomorrow.

The racket went on until 5:30 p.m.

And this morning it started up at 9:30 a.m. I went down again to see if I could find anyone who knew anything. It’s Christmas Eve, for Christ’s sake. Not that I give a hoot about any of that, but most the expats here, including the Christian ones I hear talking about Jesus in the hallway, probably do, and there’s a lit Christmas tree in the lobby. Again, nobody knows or can do anything. Sorry, sorry.

So, just imagine being in my situation for a moment. You have some time off and you are trying to work on your art at your computer. If you want to get work done you need to be at your computer working (no, I can’t take it somewhere else, I need the big monitor and drawing tablet…). But, if you are at your computer working, you have to subject yourself to being bombarded by an abusive level of heavy construction noise inside the building. So, if I want to get anything done, I have to endure hours on end of murderous racket, and this can go on for the full duration of my time off.

I want to say to the owner of the unit(s) being remodeled, “Fuck you, too!” Those responsible are apparently not conscious enough, or perhaps not intelligent enough, to realize the level of noise they are responsible for is not only intrusive, but abusive, and they are telling me “Fuck you” for days on end.

Sadly, at this point, I am losing much of my available time to work to the murderous cacophony of the selfish stupidity of others.

And the only thing I can do is recommend that nobody move into this construction zone, unless or until the owners acknowledge the humanity, or even the existence of the people who stay here.

The Condotel Chiang Rai is really the “Construction Hole” Chiang Rai, until further notice. If you are looking for a place to rent in Chiang Rai, ask hard questions about construction noise. I have been told that the construction is going to be ongoing for years to come. Obviously, if I’d heard a whiff of that before moving it, I wouldn’t have. I DID ask about construction! There are hundreds of units, and all the owners are hell bent on remodeling them (with as cheap of labor as they can get), and show no consideration whatsoever for the people that live here, or for the structural integrity of the building itself, for that matter.

Of course, if they were really willing to minimize the outrageous noise, and show some respect for the paying customers who stay here, it could be a good place to live. And a mere posted sign disingenuously claiming to be sorry for any inconvenience for weeks of ungodly racket, while doing nothing to reduce the noise, is a slap in the face (though, it’s better than the swift, pointy-toed kick in the groin that is the more common lack of any notification).

And if people start treating tenants like fellow human beings on a par with themselves, and not as negligible chattel that are a mere source of revenue, I’ll be more than happy to take this post down! They act like this is a construction site, and we are squatters living here. No, we are paying top prices for a guaranteed clean and quiet environment.

[Addendum: I went down this morning just after 9 a.m. to ask about the construction. It’s the morning after Xmas. I ended up looking like a crazy person with anger-management issues, because they just act apathetic. I pointed out the POSTED RULES on the message board and asked why they can’t call the people making the noise and tell them to stop. They agreed but didn’t do anything. The noise continues.]

Merry Construction Christmas from the Chiangrai Condotel.

4 replies on “The Murderous Cacophony of Merry Construction

  1. Oh I so feel your pain. There is a salvage yard hidden in the woods behind my house that smashes dumpsters – literally – starting at 5:30 am. No one that I asked, the landlord, or the neighbors seemed to remember it’s presence when I asked if the neighborhood was quiet. There are no sleeping pills, no earplugs known to man that can stop this noise jarring you out of a dead sleep. I was told they have to do it so early in the morning because the man the operates the machine gets hot, and it’s cooler before the sun comes up. Well that makes sense, let’s wake everyone in the neighborhood up at 5:30 am so one guy doesn’t break a sweat. Seems right to me. My complaints to city hall were met with “The man’s got to make a living”. I won’t even go into detail about the air force jets that fly overhead or the bomb the air force blew up, with no notice to local residents, causing my entire house to shake like I’d taken a direct hit, because compared to the salvage yard noise, it’s inconsequential.

    So I will be moving again, continuing my never ending search for a place to live that I can afford, and where I can work in peace.


    1. Your comment cracked me up, and I feel much better about my situation now! Yes, the struggle to be able to have a place to live and work, and scrape by. I also have visa probems which mean that I will likely have to move to another country in about 6 months. The joy of being an artist!


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