February 3, 2013
Still on New Zealand time, we wake up at 4:00 a.m. and, opening the blinds, look out over a hazy lagoon lying just beyond the swimming pool. Shortly before sunrise the air fills with the sound of exotic birdsong, and soon thereafter a road crew takes up work on a highway being constructed next to the water.Yesterday’s massage at the Bangkok airport has left me bruised and aching. I can hardly manage to limp downstairs to the opulent buffet of Sri Lankan specialties – curries, chutneys and hoppers – traditional European breakfast foods and platters of fresh fruit – mangos, papayas, pineapples and manifold types of tiny bananas – that has been artistically arranged in the dining room.
We eat for hours, observing the other hotel guests from our table on the terrace. A flight crew still in uniform, families and lovers on holiday, and a large crowd of Chinese guests that were on our flight last night. Our plane came from Beijing, stopping shortly in Bangkok to pick up extra passengers before proceeding on to Colombo.
Many guests spend the day lazing under umbrells around the pool on comfortably cushioned lounge chairs, sipping tea, drinks and snacks brought by young waiters in crisp white uniforms.
During the evening another generous buffet serving European and traditional Sri Lankan food is set up in the dining room. I pile my plate high and like a kid in a candy shop try every single thing on the buffet. There were times in the US when we didn’t have enough to eat, and I’ve become greedy. I feel the uncontrollable urge when confronted with quantities of delicious, well-prepared food to stuff my face. Although it’s illogical, I eat more than my stomach can comfortably hold, as though I were a thrifty housewife storing a nest egg away for some rainy day in the future.
An exhausted looking Russian couple, having just come from the airport, sits opposite us. The woman demonstratively picks up her glass with two fingers, and wrinkling her nose in disgust, holds it out as though it were a filthy insect, sending the waitress when she arrives to take their order off for a new one.
Every item on the immaculate, neatly decked table is turned over, checked for imperfections, and waiters commanded on to unnecessary errands in a tone of voice that makes me want to sink through the ground with embarrassment. Because her currency is strong she thinks she is a superior being, entitled to treat Sri Lankans as though they were indentured servants. These illusions of grandeur are painful to witness and make me ashamed to be a western tourist.