Archive for the ‘journey’ Category

The Gateway

Location: Khao San Road, Bangkok
Soundtrack: Hardcore house trance

Coming back to Khao San is an appropriate end to a trip, as well as a fitting place to start.

It’s a place of beginnings and endings, a gateway from one world into the next. It envelops you in gaudy neon advertising, shouts at you with the latest dance tunes, spins you around with touts and tuk-tuks and street food. You’re slammed with a sensory overload that is uniquely Khao San.

But all of that is a gloss over the surface, a veneer rubbed on to give the impression that this is what Thailand is. But scratch at it – travel away from Khao San, Ko Samui, and Phuket – and you’ll see the real Thailand underneath. A land full of amazing people and stunning scenery, mixing ancient history and modern experiences together into an intoxicating elixir.

It makes sense, then, that Khao San is a fitting final counterpoint to your Thai experience. Sit at any one of the plentiful bars or cafes along the street, and just watch the wide eyed backpackers fresh off the plane stumble through the gateway and into the adventure that awaits them. You know it’s going to be an adventure – after all, you’ve just finished yours.

And you take with you your memories, and your learnings from the road. In my case, I took the clarity I’d been seeking, and had finally found in Pai.

Harold Stephens, writing for Thai Airways, summed the road up well:

So what is Khao San Road?  It’s a street, or a road, that is true. But it’s more than that. Khao San is about people. It’s a place where not all dreams may come true but at least those people who go there dared to dream. For the young travellers, it’s a place they will remember all their lives. For the young Thais, it’s meeting these crazy foreigners and perhaps even imitating them, for one night at least.

Then the time arrives.

You pay your bill. You pick up your bags. You take one last glance around at the veneer of Khao San, and behind it – your Thailand.

You promise you’ll be back, and know that you mean it.

Then you straighten up, and walk towards the gateway that the backpackers are coming through to start their adventure.

And without hesitating, you step back through the gateway and start your own journey home.

 

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.
~ T.S. Eliot (1888 – 1965)

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The Interlude

Just a quick one, I’m in Pai and I’ll have a post coming soon.

But I just thought I’d wish you all a happy new year.

I’m off to have a quiet drink and listen to some jazz, then hit the sack.

The clock is more than capable of ticking over without me watching it.

Plus I’m really not a bucket person (not that there are any buckets in Pai, I seriously love how relaxed this town is), but I did a quick Google for bucket images and came up with the below from Kendall, whose blog is worth a flick through. Congrats to her for kicking diabetes ass and taking names.

Buckets

See you all in the future.

I really hope there’s flying cars this time.

I’d also settle for a hoverboard.

The Journey, Conclusion

Previously: The Journey, Part One | The Journey, Part Two

I knuckled down one night and did my research.

I decided that I wanted to do another Thai cooking class, so I settled on Thai Cookery School in Chiang Mai. Gorgeous website, and a celebrity chef? Yes please. Booked.

I skimmed Thorn Tree forums and found out about an overnight stay at an Elephant Camp for AUD$120. The first time I saw an elephant in the wild, it was 7am and I was wandering back to my hut in a north Thailand mountain village after visting the loo. I stretched, looked at the top of the hill, and standing right beside a tree silhoutted against the rising sun was an elephant. That moment will stay with me forever. So of course I want to stay overnight with some elephants! Booked.

I was going to be in Thailand for New Years Eve, so I wanted to find somewhere up north to have a bit of a party. Pai came up as the right place – so I’ll be heading there.

But I also heard that Mae Hong Son was pretty awesome for scenery and day treks, and formed part of the Mae Hong Son Loop. Definitely needed to see that. Add to the itinerary.

And then I promised my mum I’d buy her a “blingy watch”. So I needed to go shopping in Bangkok, and what better place than the MBK Centre in Siam Square. So that’s on there.

I fly out of Thailand at midnight on 8th January. It wouldn’t be a trip to Bangkok without a visit to Khao San Road and maybe I will finally, after years of hope, get the chance to eat deep fried grasshoppers. That’s my final stop.

There you go. That’s a trip organised.

Parts of my accommodation are being graciously provided by my hosts, so there’s that taken care of.

I visited a travel doctor – someone who specialises in overseas adventures – to get my jabs and pick up an Emergency Medical Kit. If I eat something that disagrees with me, I’ve now got the medicine to save my dignity and laundry costs.

I dropped into a discount luggage warehouse in West End and picked up an awesome bag under 48cm that I can use for both international and domestic carry on.

Visa? I’m an Australian citizen – under 30 days stay in Thailand, I don’t need a Visa. Tick.

Insurance? I Googled travel insurance and came up with World Nomads. Another quick Google came up with a discount code, so I could save 10%. Easy stuff. Tick.

Money? I’ve been saving more than I need for a trip to the United States. With the bulk of the accommodation covered by my hosts, I had some breathing space. I dipped into my savings. Tick.

So: am I ready?

You’d better believe it.

If you go looking for Adventure, you usually find as much of it as you can manage.  And it often happens that when you think it is ahead, it comes on you unexpectedly from behind.
– Gildor the Elf , J.R.R. Tolkien, early draft of The Lord of the Rings.

The Journey, Part Two

Previously: The Journey, Part One

The offer to travel came out of the blue.

I was just going about another busy day in the office, then:

“Travel for us. Write a tale. We’ll pay for some of the trip.”

I wanted to go – I needed to go – and I could never have afforded the journey on my own right now.

It was as if an unspoken Christmas wish had been heard, and so I found myself with less than a week to plan a trip. I needed insurance, medication, Visas, a new luggage bag (my old one fell apart on my last trip) – and on top of that I needed to actually plan the trip itself.

What would I do in Chiang Mai? Where would I stay? Who would I do it with? Could I travel on my own? Was I even ready to travel on my own?

Of course, I didn’t think about those questions right away. A split second after the offer, I found myself blurting out “Absolutely. I’m there.”

It’s the lizard brain that resists the journey. The part that tells me that I’m not ready, that I haven’t saved enough money, that I haven’t planned this properly, that I’d be stuck in a bad place with no way out.

But then my heart – that loving part of us that gives us courage and creativity and drives us forward – my heart told the lizard brain to GTFO.

Of course I was ready. Honestly, it's the easiest solution. If you don't know the answer, love. See what happens.

Of course I was able.

I’m a capable human being with a rather sizable ability for lateral thinking. I’m like a modern day MacGyver.

Every problem has a solution.

So I set about solving this one.

Concluded in tomorrow’s post: The Journey, Conclusion

“I’ve always wanted to sail to the south seas, but I can’t afford it.”
What these men can’t afford is NOT to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of security. And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine – and before we know it our lives are gone.
– Sterling Hayden,
Wanderer

The Journey, Part One

My ordinary world is a complicated place.

I work in marketing, which inherently means I’m juggling twelve different things at once, each of them co-dependent on the others. Time devoted to one task is to the detriment of the next task on my list.

It’s an exhausting process – so much so, that I had to leave my last job because of the exhaustion. I was burnt out, and I needed a break. So I came to Queensland, my home state, to recover.

I’ve travelled before – my About page tells you more – but it’s not just travelling itself that restores your spirit. There’s something indefinable about the whole travel experience.

I can try to define it, but I won’t do it justice: it’s like refilling a bucket. It’s like, over time, we get stuck in ruts and routines that force our ordinary lives into patterns we can’t change.Yup. It's a bucket. I call him Doug.

Every now and then, we need to escape the routine.

We need to refill the bucket.

We need to break out of the ordinary and explode into the extraordinary, if only to achieve a few days (or in my case, two weeks) of escapism. Of seeing the world from the outside in, of seeing what is really going on in our lives instead of being caught up in the daily routine.

So when the unexpected opportunity to travel came up in a period of my life when I needed some clarity – of course I jumped at it.

Wouldn’t you?

Continued in tomorrow’s post: The Journey, Part Two.

People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.
– The Power of Myth (1988), Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers