Flashback to Pattaya, Thailand! We arrived at Wat Phra Yai in the rain. The bells, the strays, the dragons, the Buddhas—all sodden with misty droplets. A woman sold tiny cages of birds to release at the top of Big Buddha Hill. If they all fly away, your wish comes true, or you get good luck or something. I saw one tour guide in Bangkok take the cage from a bird-freer who couldn’t get them all out and shake the birds into flight. Ha ha. Good luck! About a million dogs slumbered in a comfy pile. Cats and chickens camped out under the bell awning (a safe distance from each other, of course). The helpful plaque at the entrance reads, “The largest Buddha image of Chonburi, the Phra Buddha ‘Sukhothai Walaicholatharn,’ is located in this temple. This image was constructed in 1977. Several other Buddha images can be found at this temple.” Finally! I’ve been searching and searching for ‘several other Buddha images!’Most notable about this temple was the beer-bellied old men there with young Thai girls they’d hired as “companions” for the day, night, week, whatever. These men made a point to not make eye contact with anyone. The couple would approach up the long flight of stairs, then the girl would show the beer-belly how to hold the lotus bud and incense sticks while kneeling in prayer. I thought this was very interesting and sad. Most of the temples we visited had many Thai but few foreigners going through prayer rituals. I wanted to shake these gross geezers and ask them, “What are you doing here with her? And what possesses you to kneel before a Buddha image in prayer after taking advantage of her? Is this culture appreciation as per your itinerary? Or do you feel guilty for coming here alone to buy as many prostitutes as you can? Burn all the incense you want—but if it’s guilt you feel, it will not be assuaged by incense as you return to the night.” Statues, dolls and little shrines lined the wall ringing the temple. A brightly colored shrine, soaking wet, sat with a sad little power cord dangling powerlessly over the edge. When I kneel before Christ and ask for forgiveness, he has the power to wipe away every impure thing from my heart. But here these sad men kneel before a cold statue that has no power to purify them. I don’t know what brought them from the sex-show-lined streets below to the hilltop temple, but I felt sad to see them trying to satisfy themselves one night, then turn around and have no outlet to pour their guilt into come the next morning. It feels so hopeless. Or maybe they were just there because their hired girlfriends were showing them around. Who knows, but this was a perfect microcosm of the Pattaya I saw. If you think I’m being too harsh on the gross old guys, take a trip to Pattaya and watch them pulling really young girls down the street as police officers look on while standing under vinyl banners reading, “Pattaya Police Zero Tolerance—for drugs!” even though prostitution is also illegal. Anyway, there was a nice view from the top of the hill.