travels without a map
28.01.2013 - 02.02.2013 32 °C
Well what a plonker! I love maps, I positively drool over them so why the hell didn't I buy a map of Thailand? I'm a week into my Thailand trip and I still haven't managed to buy one! Where am I now? Well I could vaguely tell you I'm in Khao Sok a national park I think about half way between the west and east coast, but if you had asked me a week ago I would have been clueless.
Life has been somewhat hectic, in a whiny children/no time to do research kind of way. Once the kids are asleep I tend to fall into a horizontal position and stay there until the morning. About 9 days ago the three of us left Bangkok, yes just three of us, those of you that know us well will know by now that Dave is back in England.
The interesting thing about travelling with kids which is intensified when you are on your own is that you can't just nip anywhere (like to buy a map). Any nipping one does do, for example to the incredibly lush air conditioned very western shopping centre in Bangkok (which incidentally didn't have a map) any such nipping can quite easily turn into a whole days outing.
So it was that a week ago I ended up in the wrong city, yes I know what a plonker. Chiang Mai sounds like Chaing Rai a lovely Sardinian couple commented soothingly when I realised my mistake. What a complete edjit, Thing is without kids I would have just hopped on a bus for another 5 hours to rectify the mistake. However the kids were about to mutiny. They enjoyed the overnight on the train but not the several hours delay the following day and I must say I was inclined to agree. We had planned to stay with the Akha hill tribe up in the mountains, infact a truck was waiting to take us but in a town 5 hours north. Oh well!
Resigned to staying in Chiang Mai I set about about trying to haggle with a Songathew driver (like a shared pick up truck taxi), boy these guys are tough. Exhausted we finally landed right in the centre of town. Not willing to shop around I walked into the first guest house I found and result, a fantastic room right opposite a temple. Now those of you who know Chiang Mai will know that finding a room opposite a temple is actually no big deal, the place is heaving in them, 300 to be exact.
Later that evening we went for a wander and every tourist we saw had a map of Chiang Mai but not me. Where did they get these maps? ...I accosted these bewildered tourists please tell me where you got your map? They all answered “our guest houses.” Mine must be the only guest house in Chiang mai with no map and no information what so ever. I had managed to find myself an entirely Thai place to stay. Away from the backpacker crowd. Great for the Authentic experience but rubbish if you actually want to play tourists, or have an English conversation with a grown up.
While in Chiang Mai we did some pretty cool things (without a map) like playing with tigers, visiting a rescue centre for elephants and of course visiting temples (I think we managed to clock up 14).We did however have to walk back all the way from one side of the town to the other from one such excursion, in searing heat and rush hour and run the gauntlet with the traffic,because the Songathews wouldn't pick us up in rush hour. Luckily we met a very nice Irish Lady with a map and managed to navigate our way. Now we know the place so well we don't need a map.
Travelling with children is now definitely taking it's toll especially with Dave not being here. The adult moments are few and far between and I pounce on any English speakers especially if they have kids, Tempers are a bit frayed and I look wistfully at the twenty somethings who have just come back from trekking or some other wonderful experience that involved more than an hour drive. I remind myself that I did that in my twenties and that this is a completely different experience. As I write this I am sitting shading from the mid day heat as the children play with a little Thai 3 year old who has taken a liking to Daniel, rather bizarrely there is Dora the Explorer on in the background and wind chimes tinkling. I am heartened to see that small Thai children behave just as cheekily as my two.
After another two overnight train journeys and a minibus we are happy to be still for a moment. But in two days time I must again embark on my journey still without a map and still clueless, wish me luck.