Justin's been to the Louvre, and I have not, and he says that the first thing that everyone always thinks when they see the Mona Lisa is that they can't believe how small it is. I don't think any of these people consciously sat around expecting the Mona Lisa to be a particular size; it's just that somewhere, unconsciously, we built an expectation of it. Similarly, I didn't take deliberate notes on movies to decide what I thought exploring around Thailand and Cambodia would be like, but I do think I formed some subliminal expectations in which movies played a role. So here are some of my expectations which were or were not validated by our travels.
1) Expectation: Creepy, dark, and underground. INVALID.
You know that scene, when the hero or heroine picks up a torch and heads into the dark building. He or she descends some stairs into mysterious blackness, waving a torch back and forth to illuminate carvings on walls, or holding it high to read ancient inscriptions. Part of what makes these places so creepy and atmospheric is the dark jungle, right?
Except not. Note how this gate in a Cambodian temple opens up into.... a SINISTER SUNLIT COURTYARD.
|Must be a trap.|
Wat U Mong is a forest wat (temple) in Chiang Mai, and it's famous for the fact that it's basically the only one with underground tunnels. Lo and behold, it is dark inside. Not as dark as it looks in pictures (the human eye is really amazing) but dark.
|And yet a totally uncreepy entrance.|
|Naturally lit tunnels|
|Wat Umong Buddha lit with electric lights, skylight, and camera flash. In the 1400s they could only afford to do this on special occasions.|
2) Expectation: A walk in the park. INVALID.
I expected that there would be walking. I can do that. And I knew I'd have to go up a bit. But I did not ever wrap my head around the sheer physical toll of schlepping up multiple sets of multi-story staircases which only occasionally had the benefit of a handrail. Sometimes the steps were so narrow that your feet didn't even fit going forwards and you had to climb sideways, like a crab.
|Stairs. Why did it have to be stairs?|
|I hate stairs, Jock! I HATE 'EM!|
|Don't eat the dates!|
The sun in the tropics is brutal, especially with our skin tones. We both wear SPF 50 and top up every few hours and still get a touch of burn. I'm so pale that Justin has to use camera filters to photograph me in direct sunlight.
|It's a defense against predators.|
Vendor: You want a hat? This one is $8.
(Justin reaches for wallet)
Me: That's a bit much.
Justin: No, $8 is fine.
Justin is not allowed to speak in marketplaces anymore.
My hat, which also started out at $8, eventually cost me $3. It tragically died due to smashing in my suitcase.
|Also I fought a lion for it.|
|NO HAT LEFT BEHIND.|
A behind-the-scenes story tells that in Raiders of the Lost Ark, filmmakers had to convert a complex choreographed whip-and-sword duel between Indy and a local into the iconic scene where Indy just shoots the guy because Harrison Ford had diarrhea and couldn't film a longer sequence. Now that, we can relate to. And I don't think you need any more details than that.