Random Thai monument #83, with baby. Also, why is the guy on the right holding an ice bucket?


Some guy standing next to the River Kwai started cooing at Hannah and convinced us to get into his long-tailed boat and go for a ride. At the time, it seemed perfectly reasonable, and off we floated. In typical Thai fashion, he never made our destination clear, or if we even had one. We didn’t ask. Half a mile down the riverbank, we came upon a “Monkey School,” where the curriculum seemed to involve diving, coconuts, and basketball. Our man navigated us right past it. Apparently this was not worth a stop. No one said a word, but about 50 yards later, I saw Hannah pounding her chest.

This can yours for a down payment of $16.27.

“Did we just pass a bunch of monkeys playing basketball?” I asked Sarah.

“We did,” she said.

A few hundred yards later, we sailed past houses overlooking the water. Huge houses, I mean like Buckingham Palace big. They were ornate and tacky and obviously the height of Thai opulence. “Cost 3 million baht,” our tour guide said, which sounded insane until I googled “3 million baht” and found that it’s the equivalent of $87,363. I have mortgages bigger than that. But at least my neighbors aren’t primates.

Dude finally stopped the boat, and we looked around. Middle of nowhere. Like good little tourists, we got off and he led us up a mountain through a sad little covered market where we couldn’t find one thing we were remotely interested in buying. Then we kept seeing signs for a cave (“100 metres à to see a cave” . . . “50 metres à to see a cave” . . . “Don’t forget the cave!” et cetera), and I was all, “Dude, I love caves! Let’s go.” Sarah doesn’t love caves and Hannah, being a baby and all, is still undecided on caves. They followed me anyway until we finally got to the entrance, when an obvious friend of our tour guide was standing there, demanding a 70 baht entrance fee. I said forget it, I don’t like caves that much. (Later I realized 70 baht was only $2.03. Dammit.)

Only one of them is enlightened.

Mortally wounded, our guide put us back on the boat and took us further down river to a small temple atop a mountain to see a giant golden Buddha that looked a lot like Sammy Sosa, which I had to admit was pretty cool. While gazing at this particular Buddha, I wondered if he was right that the cause of all human suffering was ignorance, and I tried to achieve an Enlightenment of my own. But then Hannah shat her diaper and some kid tried to sponge 10 baht off me, and when I asked what for, he just said he wanted it, which felt like extortion, so I said no and we got back on the boat.

As we zipped back up river, I thought of the kid and asked myself: What Would Buddha Do? Then I realized that if Buddha kept up on exchange rates, he would know that 10 baht was only 29 cents, and even an ascetic with no money would give the kid the 10 baht. I don’t think I’m cut out for Buddhism.