cooooool show. im excited.
It is just over a month since I returned to Australia and settling in has proved kinda tricky. A lot happened on my return. Things I wasn’t really prepared to deal with, and that were out of my control. I felt way over my head. But if travelling has taught me anything, it’s that life goes on. Things change, feelings change. New people come along, and you wonder where they’ve been all your life. I’ve learnt not to plan too far ahead, and that kind of thrills me - the not knowing. In the past such a thought would have terrified me. I think sometimes I need to still think about the basics of situations, and not get carried away by the what ifs. Because what ifs don’t help anyone.
The hardest part though, has been finding a motivation to write. Because that’s what lays ahead. A long stretch of words. I know they’re in there, but 20,000 words seems massive from this angle. I feel as though every day I get a brief glimpse of motivation, and then it’s gone. Slipped through my fingers completely. My supervisor tells me that if I write everyday, I will convince my brain that it is second nature. I look forward to being on a total and utter roll. But for now, I’m obviously winning at procrastination by updating this!
a little bit of paradise…
I wrote this on Monday….
I sit in the air-conditioned coffee club at Suvarnbhumi airport and, apart from the beautiful oriental themed gardens through the window, I could be anywhere in the world. It is funny how airports are like that - international spaces where foods, people, products, cultures combine.
I have had an interesting week, feeling somewhat torn between tourist and the real Thailand - understanding Georgia’s love and interest in tourist activities and destinations, but also feeling so much more aware of the impact of our presence on this country that I have developed such an affinity for. I remember reading other people’s blogs and travel stories of eventually feeling a sense of familiarity and ‘home’ within a country, and becoming so much more aware of ignorant and often offensive tourists around you. I wonder if it is much more fun to travel unknowing of a culture and a people, simply not thinking too much and enjoying oneself. In Laos perhaps that was us - travelling for fun, to party, not to care. Here I feel serious - appreciative and grateful to the local people, wanting to see uncovered sights other than the tourist hangs, and above all respect this bewitching culture.
It is great to have a travel companion, but I also feel more aware of how comfortable I have become here - loving the challenge of a thai conversation, an argument with a tuk tuk driver, a bargain at a food stall.
I imagine Samui will be much more touristy however, and I will probably enjoy it all the same.
On Monday I had my first taste of Khao Soi, a famous Chiang Mai dish. It seems ironic that I’ve spent so much time there, and yet have never tried it. The flavours literally exploded and then melted in my mouth - the red curry soaked the yellow noodles and crunchy noodle topping into a softened broth of ultimate goodness. And that is no poetic exaggeration. I literally had a foodgasm.
I’ve picked up a cold in Vang Vieng - a given considering the ratio of time spent partying in wet clothes and time spent getting a good night’s sleep. But it was an amazing week - starting with the 14 hour train trip from Bangkok to Non Khai, the border town through to Laos. I was so jealous of those in the lower berths, with windows and wider bunks. At least I wasn’t as tall as Roh, who definitely had a sore neck by morning.
Crossing the border took forever, with more than a few moments of worrying that I wouldn’t get through with my permit that i’d waited hours for the week before. Or at least that I wouldn’t be allowed BACK into Thailand. But finally (and thanks to Roh’s much better Thai skills) we were on our way to Vientiane. I felt a little like ‘The Castle’, singing ‘we’re on holidays!’ instead of ‘we’re going to Bonnie Doone.’ A week of debauchery awaited us!!! The best surprise at this point was that Laos has real bread. REAL bread. Crusty, French style baguettes, filled with delicious Laos goodness - who knows what was on it, but boy did it taste good.
3.5 hours later, we arrived at our hostel - Spicy Laos, Vang Vieng. A legit treehouse, complete with ladders to beds and giant sweaty hammocks. Think Peter Pan style. Daisy and Tash had arrived hours earlier, opting for the 18 hour bus trip, but gaining more hours to spend partying.
Most days we slept in (when the monks weren’t chanting on a microphone at 5am), ate breakfast at any number of restaurants (they all seemed the same because they all played Friends episodes all day and night) and then hit the river for tubing. We’d tube from about 1pm - 8pm, have dinner, a shower, and head to a bar. Dance the night away, grab a sandwich at 1am, head to Jaidee’s, fall asleep, eventually roll into Spicy Laos at about 3am. Such a retardedly tiring process, but so much fun. Such a good break.
On our 3rd day we decided to mix it up a bit and head to Blue Lagoon - one of those creepily opaque oasis style lagoons, complete with rope swings and huge jumping fish. Ended up lying in the sun for hours, feeding a dog chips, before trekking up a huge mountain to check out a cave. I freaked out climbing up (so steep!), as well as heading into the cave as we decided to opt for no torch (clearly convinced the lovely Laos lady was trying to scam us when she told us the cave was pitch black inside - it was!). But it was hilarious all the same, and chilling with my main men Tash and Dais was the best. I’m actually so keen to travel with you babes again asap!
Our last day was ridiculous, tubing for hours, falling asleep at dinner, partying for hours more. Literally not sleeping - opting instead for english accents and beer pong. In the morning, we definitely paid for it, with a 4 hour bus trip at 8am. Not fun.
2 days in Chiang Mai provided much catch up on sleep, and an attempt to get over the cold. I am now back in Chiang Dao, in the sweltering heat…
Chiang Dao’s pace is slow and relaxed, and the Thai team are so very welcoming to me. I have moved into the Volunteers House in town with Golf and Gift, and have my own little room with an abundance of blankets which I have piled up into a bed. Still not used to squat toilets, but I feel looked after. Staying there means I am very much amongst it - spending time at Circus workshops at various schools and villages, and participating in morning Yoga and conditioning. Now I just need to finish this Documentary!
Being sick in a hill tribe is not a great experience. Vomiting and having diarrhoea in a basic squat toilet by candlelight, while the rest of the family listens on, anxious that they have poisoned you, and that this will reflect their hospitality is pretty embarrassing.
It definitely was at a point where I just had to accept feeling unwell and letting the moment carry out. Poor An translated for me, but I think he felt as though he was also in a pretty tricky position also.
Much better now, though! Although my stomach has shrunk a bazillion times - probably not a bad thing.
I have become aware of a feeling of a sense of racism in thailand. In Australia, I am often so cautious of acting racist, avoiding describing somebody as ‘Asian’ or ‘black’. In Thailand, the only word they have to describe a white person is ‘Farang’ - they simply do not have another word suitable in their language. It is very obvious when somebody is talking about you, and taking advantage of the fact you do not speak enough Thai to understand.
Sunday night was spent in Chiang Mai, shopping and partying. It was a whirlwind of markets, fish spas, manicures, bars, and cocktails. A completely different world to where we had been only hours before.
We met many a drunken tourist, which made me realise how lovely the Thai people are that we are with. I almost felt embarrassed for the behaviour of the tourists - so many people come to Thailand to have a good time, taking advantage of cheap alcohol and a constant nightlife.
As a result, the bus trip back to Chiang Dao was pretty eventful, with a few bags of vomit thrown out the back of the bus! Standard.
Off to Pang Daeng village this afternoon. It will be interesting to see it 12 months later.
Airplanes are amazing hive of activity. They are like hives, or nests - 100s of people keeping low, keeping quiet, ducking out of their momentary hideyholes to the toilet, or to stretch their legs. Food is brought to them, to keep them nourished, and water - hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
It seems the woman next to me is like the Queen Ant, or at least would like to think she is!!! She mutters under her breath, “You’d think they could take our trays now!”, “These towels are HOT! That’s odd!”, and tells me that her husband’s friend has organised this trip - to her a few nights in Bangkok are a “waste of time.” Her husband seems a little more down to earth, but has alreay made cracks to his friend about the turbulence being caused by the fact we’re probably somewhere over Changi; lesbians; men in the kitchen; and in reference to the airline’s choice of beer, “I guess we’re going to have to get used to this!” - And they’re only travelling for 2 weeks!!! Perhaps “out of their comfort zone” is secretly a good thing, but I’m sure they’ll complain about it every step of the way.
It is amazing, come to think of it, how easy it is to assume people’s backgrounds and stories. I wonder how close my guesses actually are. The man in front and to my left has been watching old black and white movies; the young woman next to him, what looks like Thai soap opera.
Planes are an interesting place to people watch - some people can be so demanding and rude to the flight staff, who are so lovely and helpful. I think flying with Thai Air is only a positive thing. I am already reminded of the land of smiles. I wonder if the visit will be very different to last year’s. I know I have changed a lot in 12 months. Has Thailand changed too? And will travelling somewhat alone (at least in comparison to my magnificent 7 last year) cause me to notice anything different? 2 months seems like a long time from this angle. I can only imagine if I ever move overseas ‘indefinitely’.
I believe this trip will be a fair bit of ‘going with the flow’ and taking things as they come. Perhaps this is the Thai way anyway. Mai pen rai. I know already that this trip will be a huge learning curve, and I hope a chance to let go of a number of things that I’m having trouble shifting in my life. I’m a determined holder-on-erer, which I guess in some circumstances will be very useful, but in others, I definitely need to not be afraid to just dive into the deep blue. Hopefully I will end up on a beautiful beach with white sands and sunshine. And then maybe, sometime, eventually, the right things will catch up with me. You never, ever know!