From Temples to Mosques

For the fifth time, I flew back to Bangkok today. In the morning, I start my journey west to Beirut. Coming here again feels like home in a way even as I try out another hotel. It makes me realize how much I have learned about life here compared to my first night in Bangkok back in early March. This time I walked to the 7-11 (they are everywhere in Thailand) to get a cold beer for a cheap price and stocked up on the cheap snacks. I got one last inexpensive massage, still a deal even at inflated hotel prices. The inevitable evening thunderstorm didn’t get in my way as the massage place is right next door in this hotel. I had one last Thai dinner and tomorrow I’ll spend my last Thai baht at the airport. Another chapter of this adventure is ending.

Yesterday at this time I wasn’t sure I would make it back to Bangkok. The night before I had gone out to an extravaganza performance called Smile of Angkor. It was an entertaining and amusing production that was like a Cambodian version of Cirque de Soleil complete with 3D effects, giant video, a pond of water on the front of the stage, amazing sets and costumes and dancers. There were also three young gymnasts who contorted their young, limber bodies into shapes that shouldn’t be possible. It was the kind of performance that you wouldn’t find in the US, I imagine with titles of the various chapters called Ask God, Glorious Kingdom and Resurrection. Where there was narration, the words flashed above the stage in 4 languages – English, Cambodian, Korean and Thai. The audience was filled with Asian faces and the only other Westerner I saw was a man with a Thai woman.

Likewise, the buffet dinner that was included in the ticket price was clearly catering to the majority of tourists to the area, many of whom are Korean. As I scanned the many dishes (carefully labeled, thank goodness), I spied dumplings, Korean kimchi, BBQ (choose your ingredients for a stir fry), salads with things like seaweed and black sesame seeds, and some gelatinous treats labeled simply “sweets”. I tried several things, some familiar, some not, but tried not to overindulge.

When I came out of the theatre, my tuk tuk driver was there to meet me. The sides of the tuk tuk were pulled down as the rain was driving down. Unfortunately, the sidecovers didn’t enclose the vehicle and I was thoroughly drenched in short order. I laughed out loud as we drove through huge puddles, the memory of the surprise ending of the performance in my head – Beethoven’s Ode to Joy sung in Cambodian by the cast including several monks. It was definitely a different kind of night!

The next morning, the same driver took me on a tour of the lesser known temples. It was already hot when I climbed up the hill to the top for the first one. The view of the surrounding area was worth it, though, including a different perspective of Angkor.

As the day went on, we drove from one temple to another, each unique in its own way. One was choked with giant tree roots, another was a temple surrounded by 4 ponds. One was a three story climb up steep stone steps, another had a hall of dancers with carvings remarkably intact for being out in the weather for several hundred years. It was an interesting day, all the more interesting from what I had learned at the museum the day before.

Back in Siem Reap, I walked over to a local ice cream shop with a blissfully cool upstairs lounge. That’s when it hit. Something I had eaten at the buffet did not agree with me and it was all too clear. With a quick stop at a market for ginger ale and bananas, I made it back to my room. Within an hour, I was sweating from a fever even as I shook with chills. I put on warm clothes, turned off the air conditioning and shivered in the 90 degree heat. I spent the night in a feverish state, strange dreams, runs to the bathroom and lots of tossing and turning. In my lucid moments I wondered how or if I could get on a plane the next day.

Fortunately, I have a pretty hardy immune system and by late morning I was feeling pretty much back to normal and very grateful. The plane ride to Bangkok was quick and easy, especially compared to the uncomfortable hours I would have spent on a bus. I arrived in time for a swim in the pool before the inevitable thunderstorm came again.

At the airport I stopped by the Emirates Air counter to reconfirm my flights for tomorrow. The staff there were wearing red hats with head scarves built into them. For all the planes I’ve taken, each country has its own flavor on board. From just the outfits, I know I’m in for a different journey to the Middle East. Goodbye, Bangkok. Hello, Beirut.

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5 Comments

  1. Glad you got better quickly. We only seem to get diarrhea in Cambodia the day we have a long bus trip planned! Love your photos of the temples and the countryside and I’m so glad you liked the GB and were able to visit with Arun at Angkor Hospital for Children. Safe travels, and I’d love to hear more when you return home, Dr. Bob

    Reply
  2. g fv

     /  May 16, 2012

    YOU go Gurl.

    happy travels…
    great adventures.
    I have envy…
    and gratitude to know you

    gfv

    Reply
  3. Sounds like the entertainment was fun – I’m sorry you got sick. You’ve had a great tour of Asia. Here’s to its continuation in the west!

    Reply
  4. jan bee

     /  May 16, 2012

    I am so enjoying your journey. Thanks force
    sharing your adventurer.

    Reply
  5. Barbara

     /  May 17, 2012

    After all that time, it’s amazing that you went the whole trip without issues! So glad it went by quickly and it didn’t interrupt your travels. On to the next adventure, next country and new set of people to meet. Enjoy.

    Reply

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