The water of the second story pool sparkled like a bed of sapphires. It was warmer than I expected but that only made it easier to go for an early morning swim. Stone elephants showered water from the edge, giving the illusion of rain. I could hear children playing in the larger pool downstairs, and was grateful that I didn’t have to share. Our flight to Phuket was in about two hours, but right now I could care less about time ticking away. As we boarded the plane, I thought of our friends The Hug and how I would probably never see them again.
Colored lights and strange circus like faces moved about as people in traditional Thai costumes collected our money. Black lights made the eyes and teeth glow on the unsuspecting tourist crowds. Cartoon characters accented the night as we were lead into the “World’s Grandest Buffet” area. This overly decorated hall could hold all of the people in my home town, probably with room to spare. Two hours until curtain time, and refusing to give in to the over priced carnival items, we walked around the grounds; in shock about how weird this new world was. The giant gong rang in front of the Elephant Palace, and we were lined up like cattle going to the slaughterhouse. Once inside, the gates to our seats wouldn’t open until the surrounding vendors had pulled more money out of naive pockets. The giant doors opened into a blackened theatrical stadium. The cast rode in on elephants, followed by a parade of towering lanterns, lotus flowers, swords and candles. Dancers in extravagant costumes made their way onto stage, as lasers bounced from wall to wall. Somehow, the cast of Cirque du Soleil had been briefed on Thai customs. Trapeze wires hung from the ceilings, and stages rose and fell right before our eyes, and harnessed dancers flew about. Explosions and smoke bombs accented certain points as a love story about the king unfolded. Chickens, goats, elephants, water buffalo and pigeons all knew their part and where to go, as rain poured from the ceiling. Flower petals and balloons showered the audience of over 1000 people as the lights came back on. And again we were lined up for vendors to continue ringing us out before we were allowed to leave.