We’re in port in Thailand. It’s hard to tell how we’re supposed to refer to it. The name of the actual port is Laem Chabang, but the nearest town is Pattaya, and our tickets say Bangkok. Bangkok is a two-hour drive from the port, so we’re here for two days so that people who actually want to go into the city can do so and then spend the night. Weird, because Valley of the Kings was an even greater distance from our port (3 ½ hours by bus), but we didn’t stay overnight.
Our tour took us into Pattaya to a place called “Sanctuary of Truth.” I have learned to modulate my expectations on this trip, because so many things don’t live up to their hype. Luckily, I had never heard of the Sanctuary of Truth.
It’s a sort of Buddhist shrine right on the beach in Pattaya. It’s large for a wooden structure – about 4 storeys tall, although it’s all one big room. Although it sounds like something created in antiquity, it’s only about 40 years old, and still not complete. The first part of the walk takes you through the woodcarving shop where we got to see the carvers at work turning bits of wood into art. And of course, they made it look easy.
The Truth sanctified in this sanctuary isn’t mystical, revolutionary, or hard to understand – it’s the same Buddhist truths people have been living by for ages – all humans are fundamentally equal, treat everyone with respect, revere your family, care for the old and the young. I loved thinking that someone was moved enough to design and begin building this lovely place just to get everyone to remember what it takes to be a good person.
After the Sanctuary of Truth, we went to the beach. There couldn’t have been more of a contrast. According to our guide, Pattaya used to be the place that Thai families went to for a weekend getaway – it was cheap, lovely, and had a nice beach. Now, he said, white tourists have taken it over. The beach is dominated by people with stalls where, for about 100 baht (about $3), you can rent a beach umbrella and a couple of plastic beach chairs for the day. Across the street there’s a line of the kind of tourist bars you see in Mexico – an open patio packed with tables and chairs, and hostesses that shout “Welcome! Come on in!” to every passer-by. Interspersed with these are the occasional American fast-food place, and a couple of convenience stores where, next to the cashier where one would normally expect candy or gum, condoms and lube.
We had been dropped at an absolutely huge mall, where we bought a tank top (for me), and some much needed groceries – saltines, fruit, tonic water, sinus medication, cough drops.
And no – I wasn’t better yet. We went ashore for a hot second to load up on a few last-minute Thai souvenirs, but apart from that, stayed on the ship. My chest is still full of goo and I’m still coughing and dizzy. I tried toughing it out, but gave it up and ended up going to bed at 3:30 in the afternoon, and sleeping until about 7 the next morning. Rather than the restless sleep of illness, this was the solid sleep of getting better. The poor Pirate had dressed and gone to dinner, but forgot his card key. He apparently knocked at the door, but to no avail. Luckily, he was able to snag a steward to let him back into our room. Apparently I told him he looked nice, rolled over, and went back to sleep.