A solitary shrine stands like a bird table, resting indolently under the shade of a black umbrella. A stark shadow is cast by the midday sun, which shields the humble offerings that are laid out on the small platform. A conical banana leaf acts as a vase, supporting the mane like petals of marigolds, which are crowned with oleander.
A shaven headed monk sweeps leaves from a pathway with a bamboo broom, as the temple’s iridescent mosaic tiles glint in the sunlight. Yawning dragons mark the temple’s entrance; their eyes wide with surprise at the foreigner who dares to approach the ornate gilded exterior. Gilded elephants raise their trunks in delight, heralding a silently trumpeted welcome.
The oil in the wok sizzles, as the street vendor cracks eggs into the pan. Working hurriedly, he slices a banana into the batter, as the roti prata turns a golden brown. The aroma draws a small crowd of school children, who wait expectantly as the pancakes are topped with a luscious coating of condensed milk and a light sprinkling of sugar.
This is the reward for the completing the evening’s regularly scheduled exercise routine, which was conducted in the nearby school ground. Aerobics Thai-style, accompanied by the souped up strains of the Carpenters. Once the frenetic exercise routine is complete, the national anthem is played, as the flag of Thailand is solemnly lowered before a picture of a radiantly smiling Thai monarch. If only my step classes ended this way.
A grey scale palette is formed, as the sun disappears behind the mountains. The blackened silhouettes of coconut palms create a backdrop to the silver water gliding silently before them. Like shadow puppets appearing on a starlit stage, a lone fishing boat returns to shore, as villagers slowly make their way back home along the Mekong.