In long-term travel, things sometimes don’t go according to plan. And that’s fine: if you have the luxury of time, you should also have the openness of mind to assess that a destination is not right for you and do something about it. And that is how I am typing this on an impromptu flight to Chiang Mai three weeks after settling down in Ao Nang for what was supposed to be the duration of Richard’s divemaster training – 6 to 8 weeks. This is our first massive change of plan and I think we were a little slow at dealing with it, which resulted in us spending over two weeks in a place that, in hindsight, I was not all that into.
One year ago today, on January 1st 2014 at 8am, we locked the door of our flat in Montreal for the last time, leaving behind an empty shell of what was our life of the previous seven years, and dropped the key through the mail slot. As it resonated loudly in the dark empty box, I felt an excitingly familiar feeling in my stomach: we were homeless, the unknown awaited us. It was amazing to ring in the New Year in such a drastic, life changing, exciting way, and the feeling hasn’t left me since.
One thing anyone who is even mildly technology dependant should do before travelling anywhere for an extended period of time is to have their smart phone unlocked. Having 3G in South East Asia (in fact in any foreign country!) opens up so many possibilities. All of a sudden you are not dependant on tuktuk drivers telling you that your hotel is miles away, you can look up this nice hotel you just stumbled upon on Tripadvisor to see what other people thought of it and you can pretty much just hop on a scooter and go get lost anywhere, knowing that your trusty GPS will always bring you back home at the end of the day. 3G in South East Asia is extremely cheap and surprisingly very fast and reliable in most places.
Out of any possible travel destinations, I chose Koh Tao to do a work-a-thon, redesigning and migrating my blog and catching up on a backlog of blog posts from Laos. All the while Richard was completing his open water and advanced PADI diving certifications. But I wasn’t. I was sat on the balcony of our hotel room staring at a computer screen. I had chosen to do that. The crazy things you end up doing on long term travels.
We briefly backtracked towards Bangkok as we made our way to Khao Yai National Park and its adjacent town called Pak Chong. We had purchased a two and a half day tour and accomodation with GreenLeaf guesthouse and they offered free pickup from the bus station, which was great. The guesthouse was very basic but spacious and clean, however we did find a giant spider the size of a fist in the bathroom on the night we arrived, but hey, we were here to see critters after all, no? In fact I kinda threw a tantrum (or a strop, as Richard would call it), tried to get him to dispose of it for me, which he refused. I then had to go get one of the guys at the restaurant to come and do something about it for me, while Richard sat and gave me scornful looks and the guy giggled at us. This made us wonder how I would be coping with the critter encounters ahead of us…
We arrived in Bangkok at a time where the protests were at their all time low. I was very reluctant to come altogether, seeing as two children had died in bombing the previous day and it felt very unsafe to venture in. Fortunately, we had this map made by Richard Barrow depicting the main rally sites and areas to avoid and this, along with his Twitter account, allowed us to find a safe place to stay and to somewhat enjoy a slice of the city, albeit a very limited one. Our guesthouse was in Hua Lamphong and these photos were all taken in Chinatown. Hopefully tensions will have cooled down and we will be able to visit about more freely when we return in a few months.
It’s been nearly three weeks now since we were in Pai. It seems I have finally settled into a travel routine, and photo and video editing have not been on top of my priority list… I think that Pai itself had a lot to do with slowing my pace down and teaching me again how to do sweet nothing. In short, it was absolutely worth the bus ride from hell. I think Pai may appear a little raucous at first if you’re not 22 and in party mode, but walking 10 minutes just outside of the city, we found a little slice of paradise called Yawning Fields where we settled for a week.
In the course of the last week, we went around the Golden Triangle, the northernmost point of Thailand. We visited the towns of Mae Salong, Mae Sai, Chiang Saen and Chiang Rai by bus and sorngtaaou (pickup trucks) and took a longtail boat from Chiang Rai to Thaton. So much scenery in so little time, I’m glad I’m taking the time to document everything because my mind is already full to the brim with images of landscapes and faces I don’t want to forget. Thank god for the long bus rides, I guess!