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Saturday, March 11, 2006
As it turned out, I was right when I thought I might be getting sick on
Friday night. I felt really lousy when I woke up on Saturday
morning – and the tequila shots probably hadn’t helped. My head
was throbbing, my nose was running, my throat was scratchy, and I
thought that I might have a bit of a fever. I stayed in bed as
long as possible, and missed breakfast. I really didn’t feel like
We were supposed to be going to Ayuttya, the former capital of Thailand
to look at some temples and ruins. Then we were going to take a
boat ride back to Bangkok. I thought I would be able to tough it
out, so I didn’t tell Phil and Erica that I wasn’t feeling well.
The bus ride to Ayuttya took over an hour. I have always gotten
airsick, but I had rarely gotten carsick before this trip. I have
felt sick every time we’ve taken a long trip in the bus on this
trip. It seems so bouncy. The roads don’t physically look
like there is anything wrong, so I wonder if they do suspensions
differently in Asia. Anyway, I was feeling really bad by the time
we got to Ayuttya.
We piled off the bus and went inside a little museum. Our tour
guide, Terry, led the group around, explaining exhibits on the history
of the former capital. I was tired and having trouble paying
attention. I wandered away from the group and sat down on a
bench. Phil came over to see what was wrong, and I told him that
I was getting a cold. He told me that if I wanted to take a cab
back to the hotel, I could, but I needed to decide soon. Further
on in the trip, it would be harder to find a cab. I told him that
I thought I could make it. He gave me some Airborne. It’s a
super-concentrate of vitamin C and some other vitamins that is supposed
to boost your immune system if you take it when you first feel a cold
coming on. It’s a tablet that dissolves in water, kind of like
Alka-Seltzer. It is orange-flavored, and it made me even more
nauseous than I was before.
We got back on the bus for a 20 minute ride down the road to look at
some ruins. Terry told us that we had 2 hours to look around on
our own. I guess he must have been telling the group about the
ruins back at the museum. Since I hadn’t stayed with the group, I
wasn’t too sure what I was looking at.
We walked along the edge of a wide lawn. Near the sidewalks
around the edges were vendors selling souvenirs. After we had
gotten past the vendors, we came to a large, crumbling wall with a gate
in it. This was the entrance to the ruins. Inside were
buildings in various states of decay. The ones near the gate were
in the best shape. They were round, beehive-like buildings with
tall spires on top. They were made of gray stone. Each had
a single door, which was about one story above the ground. Steep
stairs led up to the door. We were allowed to climb up the
stairs, but the doors were sealed shut.
As I walked further into the ruins, I came upon similar buildings that
were in worse and worse shape. Finally I came to a point where
the buildings were little more than piles of rubble. It was
extremely hot, and there was no shade. I don’t think I’ve ever
had to walk around in the sun with a fever before. It’s not
pleasant. I had a bottle of water, but my stomach was upset, so I
wasn’t really drinking it. Everyone was wandering around on their
own, and I kind of got away from the group. I walked and walked,
occasionally snapping a picture. Finally, I had had enough and
left the ruins area.
I walked back through the gate to the lawn with the vendors. I
looked at some of the stuff they were selling, but wasn’t really in the
mood to haggle. At one end of the lawn was the Buddha
temple. There seemed to be a lot of people going in and out of
it. I decided to go there, hoping that it would be
Wide marble steps led up to the temple. You had to take off your
shoes before ascending the stairs. I placed my shoes on a rack at
the bottom of the steps with the countless other pairs that had been
left there. I wondered for a moment about the chances of my shoes
being there when I got back, but no one else seemed to be concerned
I slowly climbed the stairs. The marble was very warm under my
bare feet. I stepped through the huge, dark door and into the
temple, and was totally floored by what I saw there. In front of
me was the biggest Buddha statue I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t the
fat-bellied Buddha from China. It was the Thai-style Buddha –
thin, sitting in the lotus position, wearing a pointed helmet. It
was seated on a pedestal. The pedestal was taller than the top of
my head – which is about 5 feet, 10 inches above the ground when I’m
barefoot. The very top of the Buddha’s helmet was at least 5
stories above the ground. The shear size of the thing was
breath-taking. I simply hadn’t expected to find anything so huge.
Many people were kneeling and bowing on the floor in front of the
Buddha. When Buddhists pray, they kneel on the floor with their
butts resting on their heels. They stretch their arms straight
above their heads, and then bend forward so that their foreheads touch
the floor and their arms are stretched out in front. This is what
the people were doing in front of the Buddha statue. Some of them
were holding cardboard canisters full of incense sticks. They
would shake the canisters and bang them against the ground until a
stick fell out. Then they would light the stick.
I stood and watched this scene for a few minutes, then tried to explore
the area around the statue. There wasn’t much else to see.
In one corner was a woman seated at a table, selling some sort of
literature written in Thai. In another corner was a kind of tree
with money paper-clipped all over it. Donations, I guess.
That was it. There weren’t any people on the sides of the statue
or behind it. Apparently you only worship Buddha from the front.
The temple was not air-conditioned, and it was stifling hot. The
heavy scent of incense was not helping, either. I left the temple
and retrieved my shoes. I stood on the lawn, trying to figure out
what to do next. I had almost an hour before we left. On
the opposite side of the temple from which I had come I saw a little
covered gazebo with benches in it. I decided to sit there, out of
the sun. As I approached it, I saw a little path leading down to
an area full of little tents. I decided to investigate.
The tent area was another little market, but it seemed to be
exclusively food. Each tent was selling something
different. Some of it looked good; some was unidentifiable.
I walked through for awhile, but some of the smells started to turn my
stomach. I left the way I had come, and sat down in the gazebo.
There were a few other people there, staying out of the sun. I
drank some of my water, ate a granola bar that I’d brought with me, and
ate some Tums. My stomach was still upset, my nose was running
non-stop, and my fever was raging. I felt completely crappy.
Finally, it was time to meet up and move on to our next
destination: the boat ride. I found Phil and told him that
I didn’t think that I was going to make it. I just felt too
lousy. He told me that it was no problem, and he’d ask Terry to
find a cab for me. It would be expensive to take a cab all the
way back to Bangkok, but I didn’t care at that point.
Terry thought that it would be easier to find a cab when we got to the
boat dock, so I rode the bus there with the others. When we
arrived, the others left for the boat, and Phil stayed behind with me
while Terry looked for a cab. I asked if there were a bathroom I
could use before I left. Terry asked the bus driver (who didn’t
speak English) to take me to a restroom. Phil walked with
me. I was taken to what looked like a kind of outdoor restaurant,
and led to the back. There were several free-standing toilet
stalls – or were they outhouses? What had I gotten myself
into? A Thai woman came over to me and smiled and said something
like, “Women’s bathroom,” and gestured towards one of the
outhouses. I reluctantly went inside. The entire structure,
including the floor, was made of wood, and held a single squatty
potty. Most squatty potties have an overhead tank with a chain to
pull for the flush, like an old-fashioned toilet. This one didn’t
have a tank. Instead, next to it was a kind of cistern with a
spigot over it. The cistern was already full of water, and there
was a plastic bowl floating in it. Apparently to flush, you used
to bowl to pour some water into the toilet.
Although the facilities were somewhat rudimentary, they were
immaculately clean, so I didn’t mind using them. When I left the
stall, the woman came running over and led me to a sink and gave me
some hand soap. Then she held a towel for me and dried my
hands. Five-star treatment. You’ve gotta love the
Thais. I gave her 10 baht for a tip.
Phil put me in a cab, and Terry made sure that the driver understood
which hotel I needed. I slept the entire drive back to
Bangkok. I felt considerably better when we arrived. I went
to the mall across the street from the hotel and got some noodles from
the food court. After eating, I went to bed and slept for a few
more hours, until the others returned.
That evening, most of us had to go to the tailor shop for a
fitting. My jacket and pants were coming along nicely. I
had a few things I wanted changed, but I was really happy with the
progress. Everyone else seemed happy with theirs as well.
Except Kris. She wasn’t happy with anything. In fact, she
claimed that some of her clothes were completely different from what
she had ordered. The tailor showed her the order slip which
explained exactly what she had told him, but she still insisted that it
wasn’t correct. Although the tailor was doing everything he could
to try to fix the situation, she threw a little temper-tantrum.
It was actually kind of embarrassing. I really couldn’t believe
that she thought that that was an acceptable way to act.
Finally, they thought that they had it all worked out. Kris was
going to have to come back again the next day for another
fitting. She ended up ordering an additional pair of pants and a
few blouses. I couldn’t figure out why she wanted to order more
when she was so unhappy with what she had seen so far.
The rest of the evening was uneventful. I spent it in the lobby
using the internet, and in my room reading. I went to bed early
and slept for almost 12 hours.
Go to March 12