…Cows! Pt 1.

Lets backtrack a little.

Last year Jen and I had a car accident in the Far North of Australia, during our last Big Aussie Road trip in November. A cow decided to commit suicide and jump in front of our van one evening. Van was a write off, 100km from the nearest town – Halls Creek (where they set the horror film ‘Wolf Creek’ – I shit you not). Stinking hot. Isolated. Stranded.

Scared the crap out of me and Jen was lucky she didn’t have the damn thing sitting in her lap (at 95km/ph). Could have been so much worse and wasn’t a lot of fun. Flying Doctor Service airlifts, remote hospitals, rental van companies, challenges galore. Eventually worked itself out but ended our road trip around Australia and left physical and emotional scars on both of us. I’m still jittery at dusk.

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Anyway, something good to come of it was that I’m now extremely careful on the road – apparently I’d always drive like a conservative grandmother at the best of times, but that little experience made me super careful.

Which is fortunate as this week I got itchy feet again. Bear with me – there is a point.

There’s a place about 130kms north of Chiang Mai, snuggled deep inside a secluded mountain valley and isolated in a way from the relentless pace of the rest of Thailand. Pai is a little hippy paradise and sits right up near the Burmese border in far north Thailand, and is becoming a must see destination for travellers wandering through Thailand looking for something different.

My friend CB and SG back home had mentioned Pai as a place that I “have to see”.  I’d never heard of it so I looked it up. Yep…temples, mountains, big white Buddha statue, hot springs, hostels and hotels. Ok…so what was so special?

Hang on…getting there looked interesting.  Options ex-Chiang Mai are abundant  – fly, bus, minivan…motorcycle. Hey motorcycle! – I can scooter up! Something about the appeal of a 4 hour ride zooming through a National Park appealed to me. Anyone can jump on a bus or minivan ( 1.5 hours and 100 baht or so from Chaing Mai one way) but taking a 125cc scooter through the mountain passes, switchbacks and blind corners of this decidedly treacherous little stretch of road takes some commitment.

So after a morning coffee, checking the weather, and very little planning, I set off.

The trip up was both challenging and stunning.

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Once I scootered out of the mild chaos of Chiang Mai, and actually got out in the countryside, a whole new side of Thailand emerged. The regional aspect. In a way it felt a lot like regional Australia but without the bogans. Busy city streets gave way to rice paddies gave way to terraced hillsides gave way to lush tropical mountain forests. Roadside coffee shops, rest stops and little shack shops were everywhere. I hit the Chiang Dao turnoff and headed left, towards Pai. This was a breeze! Highway all the way and 60kmph was easy on the cycle.

And then the highway started to climb. And climb. And climb. The sunny day began to turn a misty grey as I rode up into the low cloud cover over the peaks of the National park.

RuhRoh.

My 60 kmph quickly became 40kmph became 30kmph as the grades and slope increased and the slippery curves and sheer drops took over. The mist thickened a little and spits and spots of rain spattered the pavement ahead. Luckily the road was build like a racetrack – all well cambered twists and turns and hairpins, swooping up and down the steep mountainsides. It was just as well as the streams of motorbikes, minivans and taxis crazily negotiated these steep mountain roads at breakneck speeds, ignoring the speed limits and road markings in the favour of a quick turnaround at the destination and another load of tourists.

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Fortunately the rain held off, the baking sun came back and the 4 hour ride became a sweaty but peaceful exercise in mindfulness as there was no time to let the inner voice chatter away – all focus was on the curves, the road ahead and the oncoming traffic.

As I got closer, the heat and humidity intensified until I was dripping sweat even with the cool breeze from the bike. Thunder echoed and rolled off the walls of the valley as I rounded the last few curves and began the final descent into the town, rolling over the WWII Memorial Bridge and past the health resorts and spas that were now peppering the roadside.

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The highway turned to streets turned to laneways filled with backpackers, street vendors and food stalls. Narrow alleys bustled with people. Dogs barked and fought. Overhead power lines sparkled and hummed, hung with glowing red Chinese lanterns. The air was filled with aromatic smoke and steam roiling from the street food vendors gas and charcoal cookers.

So this was Pai! Interesting!

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I’d made it in 4 hours without incident, not too bad at all!

I parked and took off my sweaty helmet, looked around at the chaos and then up at the threatening clouds just as the grumbling thunderstorm – tired of being ignored and desperate for attention- swept through town in an earthshaking tantrum and broke the sky.

to be continued…

 

 

Black Moon in Baan Tai – Part 2

After a night spent dreaming of sharks, worst case scenarios and general underwater nastiness, chiding myself for being impulsive and reckless, and asking every friend I know that dives their opinion (thanks Kate), I dragged myself out of bed early on Saturday morning for the 7.00am start and the boat ride out to Sail Rock.

It was hard to tell if I was excited about the prospect, or just nervous, or the aformentioned shitscared. I wasn’t sure at first, but the closer to Chaloklum I scootered the surer I became – this was a good idea. Its is exactly why I chose to head West from Australia, into Asia – to find challenges and push myself outside of my comfort zone.

I’d been sheltering in the familiarity of Chiang Mai and even Bangkok to an extent – coming here to Koh Phagnan was unfamiliar, and deciding to do even this simple thing – scuba dive – was really out of left field for me…at least for the Adult-me.

The Child-me though was excited, bubbling  with enthusiasm and couldn’t wait to get my feet wet and my head underwater. It was something that I’d dreamed about and I was going to enjoy the fuck out of it.

So I got to The DiveInn early – early enough for my dutch instructor: a professional, serious man named Raf to see how enthusiastic I was and sit me down for an early briefing. I wanted to know everything, at once, now. As he explained the form and function of all the scuba gear (which I’d only even previously seen on TV), I wanted to know more and more and more. How did this work? What happens if this fails? How do I use this? Emergency procedures? Awesome tell me more…I was hooked even before I got wet (get your minds out of the gutter – seriously people). The Child-me was in control.

So the rest of the daytrippers started to dribble in – Discover Scuba Diving (or DSD) first timers like me, old hands all tanned and lugging their own gear, mangy backpackers and happy honeymooners (or ‘fuckers’, as I like to call em). The DiveInns boat was busted so they had to share a boat with 3 other dive companies that day and the boat was packed to the brim. We set out for the small wharf that jutted out perpendicular to the Worlds End Coffee Shop  – personally I thought that was very fitting just in case anything went wrong today but I did say that to anyone – no point in being a jinx.

We boarded the jaunty offwhite and green dive boat and settled in on the top deck, covered by a rough bright green sailcloth to protect us from the powerful tropical sun. The Divemaster started handing out seasickness tablets to anyone that needed them “The seas a bit rough today”. I’d spent enough time on ships in rough seas in my Navy contract days to know I don’t get seasick at all so I nixed the tablets. Others weren’t so fortunate.

A lovely Thai dive instructor gave us the boat briefing in English so broken it could have been hit by a car, but with a combination of hand signals and  enthusiasm she managed to get across the basics – what to do if we sink, and where the toilets are. The important things. Then we were on our way – just 50 minutes and counting.

The boat turned from the wharf, the powerful engines throttled up to counter the swell, and then gently nosed out to sea. Once we left the shelter of the heads the Captain opened her up and we surged along, crashing though the 1 metre waves, the hull shivering with each strike and the spray soaking the lower decks. Standing there on the top deck in the bright sunshine, swaying along, eyes closed and enjoying the rolling sensation of the boat in the water,  I suddenly remembered something.

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I love the ocean.

Although I’m prone to hyperbole at times that is the simple unadulterated fact.

Standing on the upper deck of the boat, powering through the pale green Gulf waters, salty spray “booshing” up into my face and the wind whipping though my hair, I can honestly say I’ve never been happier (at least in the past few years and definitely as far back as I can remember).  The grin on my face must have made me look like a tanned version of The Joker and I had to fight hard not to start laughing out loud at the sheer joy of it all.

I didn’t care about the fear..in fact I think at that moment the fear and heartache left me completely and I embraced whatever was going to come. I felt happy and peaceful and quietly optimistic. This is a life to be lived to the fullest with no fear and no regrets.

After my little epiphany, and at the risk of end stage skin cancer from the tropical sun, I retreated to the shade of the sunsail to get my pre-dive briefing. All the other divers had their respective instructors there, giving them serious instructions about what to do and where they were going. But I was alone.

So I waited, eavesdropping on the other groups, getting the gist of the dive site and other information as best I could. Where was Raf? I could see Sail Rock coming up on the horizon, a single rock pinnacle about 2 stories high, 30 metres or so around, surrounded by other diveboats and flocks of seabirds.

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About 5 minutes before we arrived at the rock, Raf arrived. He wasnt worried about being late. He’d planned to be last off the boat as it was super crowded and everyone was currently stuggling for space to gear up and get in the water. “we have plenty of time – dont worry” he said. And started the final briefing, which basically consisted of “this is where we are going, how deep we are going, and our communication signals and emergency plans”.

“Is that it?” I asked?

That was it. Simple.

We sauntered downstairs as the last of the new divers were struggling into their wetsuits and scuba tanks, waddling over to the ladder and launching themselves into the sea. We geared up, did our buddy checks, and waited.

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A cute dark haired Spanish girl jumped in, forgetting to hold her mask or put her regulator in her mouth. The mask promptly flipped off her face and she came up spluttering water and coughing. Good lesson there – always hold your mask.

Then it was our turn – Raf went in first, keeping a careful eye on me as he had seen new divers freak out under water and was hoping I wouldn’t. So was I, just quietly. “Don’t fuck up, don’t fuck up, don’t fuck up…”

I waddled over to the side, flippers odd but strangely familiar, lurched up onto the siderail, flippertoes over the edge. Hand on mask, hand on weightbelt, regulator in. Look at the horizon. Big step in.

I stepped.

And my world shifted to green.

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Looking beyond my feet, there was nothing but the deep green…going deeper than I’d ever seen before. Looking up was just a hint of sun and the surface above. And so many fish!

The next 30 minutes went by like seconds.

You know that expression ‘like a fish to water”. It was like that.  Everything was instinctual, completely natural, and I felt instantly at ease.

We went deeper and deeper, equalising (popping your ears) every metre or so, being cautious. Raf constantly checking if I was ok, me constantly beaming so much my mask kept filling with water (no biggie – easily cleared). Levelling off at 18 metres according to my dive computer, we skirted around the rock, dodging the other newbies (some of which were dog paddling underwater – not a good look for a diver apparently) and just enjoyed the 30 minute dive. Breathing underwater…pffttt piece of cake.

So much life,  so energising: I’d never expected it could be like this. It was an underwater forest of coral and plant life, fish and plankton, all mixed up in a warm green soup through which I was slowly moving, completely alien to this world but yet a part of it just the same. Part of the biomass, sharing the energy.

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And then it was over, and after a loooong swim back to the boat, and a brief struggle in the swell to get my flippers off and up the ladder it was lunchtime.

I was so invigorated by the experience, chattering like a giddy kid to the other newbie divers most of whom were sprawled out on the top deck, exhausted by their experience, seasick, or trying to sleep. I ate a simple lunch, went back for seconds, then thirds,  and thought – “I have to do more of this”

45 minutes later – Dive 2.

‘Whaaaat!” It thought I only got 1 dive?” SO glad I had a huge lunch.

So rinse, repeat, apply lessons learnt from Dive 1 – and back into the water. Another 45 minutes at 18 metres, touring other sections of this vast coral wonderland, relaxed enough this time to see the detail in the anenomes and the tiny fish living and hiding in the corals and seaweeds.

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At the end of the day, I was still on a high, trying to find a conscious buddy to talk to and enthuse with about the day. Luckily Mia, a german girl, was still awake, so I chattered to her for the 50 minutes back to the Dive shop. She was doing her Open Water Advanced certification and had been coming here for a few years, getting certified every time. She was addicted. And so was I.

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On the way back I decided that I was going to do my PADI Open water certification so I spoke to Raf about it. He was free for the next few weeks and would be happy to do it with me as my instructor – it is a rare opportunity to get a 1 on 1 instructor of his level, so I jumped in and signed up not only for the PADI Open Water, but the PADI Open Water Advanced back to back. This would allow me to dive down to 40 metres and dive anywhere in the world, plus give me some special certs and adventure dives as well. 10 open water dives over 8 days and skills development in the ocean – none of this swimming pool bullshit.

So my trip to Koh Phagnan took on a new focus, and over the next week or so I went out daily for diving, studied theory in the classroom (hating dive tables), and skills development. The more time in the water I spent the more confident I became, and I became friends with Raf and the other senior instructors at the dive centre. They were a close knit family that had been working together for years and it was so cool how they embraced me into their fold. The senior divers wouldn’t believe that I’d never been diving before and for a while I was the rockstar of the new divers.

I met all the dive instructors from the other boats, we hung out and went to dinner, one and got chatting to Marcia one day, a cute energetic dive master/instructor from Slovenia (I think) – she’d been on the island for 2 years and didn’t want to go back to Europe.  “Its shit – falling apart…I never want to go back” she said. Marcia also made some interesting observations about what the island does to people: they come when they are in their 20’s and they never grow up. Addicted to the adrenalin rush from diving, they move into extreme sports, or freediving, or rebreathers. They live in a state of perpetual holiday and act like immature children right up into their 50s and 60s. European women cant deal with them long term. They marry Thai women who look after them slavishly. Have unsustainable relationships, alcoholism, drug abuse and a detachment from reality. Sounds familiar. Really interesting to hear that perspective. Thank God I don’t live here.

Anyway long story short, I blitzed the theory and skills testing, got certified in 6 days, looked at the next level Rescue Diver course, and the Master Scuba Diver after that. Id like to be really good at something, so maybe scuba diving will be it.

Adult-me can suck it for a while.

Child-me is rockin’ it!

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To be continued…

 

**photos were taken on Dive 9…I’m not a total idiot. Interesting that as soon as the GoPro came into play all my skills and caution went out the window as my focus went to the camera and not the dive. Good lesson to learn.

 

 

Life rafts 

Chiang Mai is great but I’m craving a change.

As domestic flights in Thailand are relatively cheap, I’ve decided to head south – it’s more of a timeliness thing and goes against my “by ground” travel plans , but 12 hours in an overnight bus was just to risky, despite the price. So for the princely sum of $50 Australian, I was on the way to Bangkok for a few days via Air Asia ( God bless em). 

Sweet. 

Well hello Bangkok. It’s been a while.

I used to spend quite a bit of time here a while back, in a previous life . Working for the Australian government had its perks and I always got sent to Asia. Not that I’m complaining mind you. Love business class travel. I’d only been here once on holiday under my own steam –  for my honeymoon actually (that only occurred to me yesterday and man did some crap memories came flooding back – more on that another time) 

Moving right along…travelling on a budget really changes your perspective was going to be my point. Sorry . My mind is still a bit all over the place. 

Bangkok is a crazy beast that comes at you without warning . I wasn’t ready for it. Had forgotten. The energy got the better of me I have to admit.

Flying in to Don Meuang airport, catching the bus (40 baht) then the train (70 baht) was a super easy way to get to my Smiles Hostel ($19 AUD a night) in Silom. I’d picked this place as it was close to my old stomping grounds near the Australian Embassy. 

At first I thought it’d be fun, but I quickly realised that Bangkok had changed a bit,  nah a LOT,  since 2001.

There’s a bleedin’ Skytrain now that’s almost out to the airport, there’s Freeways and Tollways galore . The traffic is manageable (still crazy) and a run to the airport from Silom took 20 minutes!!! Unheard of.

But it’s definitely a different beast now. The streets where my favourite chilli eatery was located are now apartment blocks,  the roads where child mahouts rode elephants through the traffic selling bananas to the tourists to feed to the aforementioned elephants ( whom were trained to not eat them but to give them back to their handlers to resell) are now cluttered with Starbucks, fancy Japanese restaurants, 7/11s and Western style shopping malls. Where’s the old Silom alleyways and backstreets? At least Molly Malones and the Convent Road food carts were still there ! 

It freaked me out! I got lost many times trying to find my way without Google maps. Why was this all so alien? I navigate visually, using landmarks, but so much had changed. My brain hurt . But finally after an hour of wandering around in a grid pattern, I looked up to a familiar sight – the slim tower of the Westin Banyan Tree hotel. Finally the wildly spinning outdated map in my head locked on, updated, and voila – I was back. Knew every backstreet again … They were mostly still there, just hidden behind a fancy facade of Western excess.

 

Anyway I settled in, walked the street food alley of Convent Road, ate every interesting thing I could find : bag of pork and chilli? Sure! Brown soupy stuff with veges and a chunk of nameless protein boiling in it? No worries! All fresh, delicious and cheap!  (except the chicken feet – no way in Hell).

I was uneasy though, and wandered the infamous Patpong Nightmarkets, bought a cheap backpack, looked at all the tourists and market crap and knives and stun guns. Looked at old European bald guys with waify Thai ‘wives’ (yeah right) , groups of young guys (and girls) rolling into the girly bars and sex shows pulsing with neon, bludgeoned by clubnames like “Kiss Kiss Kiss” and “Pussy”.  Was deafened by the  80’s music that filled the air:  Def Leppard and techno and country ( wtf?) pounded out into the steamy Bangkok evening. And then it poured down – well at least that was the same.

I lasted an hour at the markets after watching them setup through a grey afternoon. It was my Vegas all over again. To much. Sensory overload. The crowds, the noise, the thumping of Duran Duran (I kid you not)

So I went back to the hostel, cancelled my second night, booked a flight to Surit Thani for 9am the next day, and watched Jurassic park on tv. Also had a hot chocolate and a biscuit. It was nice to chill in a hostels quiet almost-lounge room .

So as the hostel denizens wandered in and out, I collected Lucy; a Londoner only in Asia for a month after interning in Laos, and Marius; a guy from Amsterdam that’s doing the same thing as I: running away from life. We all shared our stories and our plans, chatted about Brexit, how to buy Pounds sterling, where not to go in South America, and alternatives to the Inca Trail. We got on famously and chatted for hours and then that was it!  I was leaving , Marius was on a budget and Lucy had 3 days to do everything she could in Bangkok before going home. So we parted ways only knowing each others first name, and that was enough.

I mention this as its one of the things I love about travelling that I’ve missed: to be able to meet a group of complete strangers, share your stories, gain insight and inspiration, and get a fresh perspective on your life and the lives and dreams of others. I really miss connecting to people and yet I seem to force myself away from them. 

It was nice to start feeling like a human being again, even for an hour: to make connections and to feel alive and just be acknowledged again with no agenda.

I forgot to keep punishing myself for Jen, and to feel sad. I forgot about my Bangkok fever and my negative voice shut the fuck up for a while.  I slept well right up til the 5am alarm for my airport taxi. I don’t do 5am easily. 

Bye Bangkok – we’re done.

Right now, I’m on a ferry heading to Koh Phangnan, just passing Koh Samui on my right. It’s blowing an absolute gale, the sky’s are stormy and the seas are choppy and I’m getting tossed around like a person on a boat on a choppy sea – and loving it. 

Oh the liferafts…I’m not going to say anything pithy or poignant about this trip being a life raft or some shit like that. In this weather I’m just thankful this rusty tub of a ferry has 15 life rafts and I know exactly where they’re stowed.

Right outside my window.

Beach time for me. 

Bump in

Crazy coincidences make travel so unexpected and fun. This a rambling tale but bear with it.

Yesterday I travelled up to Chiang Dao, Northern Thailand – about 50km from the Burma border and just simply stunning mountains, rice paddy’s and lush dense jungles. Imagine the Warrumbungles covered in dense jungle and tropical rainforest, veiled by cloud – the topography is strangely similar.

My good friend CB had introduced me to an old colleague of hers, Richard B, over dinner.  A fascinating Melbournite with a history of political activism in the region. Since leaving that lifestyle behind, he and his lovely wife J, have over the past 10 years built and developed a unique Arts and Theatre space called Makhampom just out of town. Charles Sturt University run an 18 day program here for students that Richard and his team facilitate. Luckily I’d been given the opportunity to check it out.

Makhampom program  – click for info. Saves me explaining it 🙂
Its a 90 minute bus ride from Chiang Mai on a good day, 40 baht each way, and amazingly a cool, overcast but not yet steamy morning – perfect for local bus travel with no aircon and open windows . It’s wet season now and a daily deluge is the norm so taking the motorbike was a bit dicey.

Heading north on the road to the Golden Triangle and the Burmese border crossing wasn’t as busy as I’d thought, and after about half an hour the city gave way to rice paddy’s, and shortly after that misty jungle and muddy swollen rivers. The bus struggled up the hills and laboured around the corners but the driver just persevered, grinding the gears occasionally and slamming on the brakes if a motorbike zoomed unexpectedly past.  What a great way to see the world go by.

So we passed through a busy police checkpoint as we got closer to Chiang Dao – wise to carry your passport with you in his part of the world as they will ask for it at  checkpoints. This time we were waved straight through.

Dropped off outside the 7/11 store, it was only a short walk to Makhampom – about a mile or so. The afternoon sky was brilliant but brooding and you could feel the weather building up to something, it became a physical thing and the air pressure seemed to rise and fall as we walked along the canals.

Wandering past flooded fields, over the small bridge and past the art installations rising from the water, the Centre was unexpected in this very rural landscape, but very welcoming as well. Arriving just in time for lunch but too late for the first performance, I met Richards lovely wife J, and some of the team that run the program. Wonderfully warm people dedicated to their arts. There was some time to wander around and meet people before the second and final performance of the course.

Now for the coincidence I mentioned :

I knew one of the actors there. Jess. She’s from CSU Bathurst ( close to Dubbo where I notionally live).

I casually said “Hey Jess” as she wandered past at lunch – she just looked at me, blinking, recognition dawning, mind blown as was mine. “Whaaaat are you doing here…” And so on. A quick catch up and it was back to work.

This looked like so much fun.

I’ve dabbled in writing for the stage and have been involved in local theatre and film for several years – I love it and seem to be ok at it I guess.

Last year the Bathurst region hosted a Short Play Festival based on the successful Short and Sweet model ( series of 10 minute plays, local actors, local directors, professionally produced).

Jess was a part of the cast from another play that had ran and we knew each other from there.

Shameless boast –  I’d had one of my plays selected for the original run, and then for a Regional Showcase “best of…” Series that toured the Western Region of NSW.

I even got paid for it!

Anyway…I digress.

So that afternoon I got to watch the young actors work (a translator providing the necessary Thai/English crosstranslation as the local Thai actors had little english)  and participate in some of the work shopping and exercises. It was so much fun and strangely comforting to see and hear people from home.

And then after what seemed like only minutes it was almost time to catch the bus home.

BUT just enough time to borrow a motorbike, zoom up to the cave temple and spend an oh so short half hour in quiet walking meditation and contemplation, with quotes nailed to trees along the path to get the busy mind on the right path quickly.


The Wat Tham cave temple here is special and I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Perched high on the side of the mountain, it doesn’t look real and seems to peek shyly through the grey clouds that scud past it at high speed . The main chamber is carved into the very side of the mountain, a natural cave where you can worship and meditate in complete silence. Steep steps lead you up a winding path through the rainforest to the base of the temple complex . Large colorful butterflies surround you and alight curiously on your bare skin. It is completely silent save for the gentle footpads of orange robed monks going about their daily chores.

A place that moves you to silence by its sheer beauty .

Breathtaking.

But it was time to catch the last bus. So it was with some regret that we left and caught the overcrowded bus back to Chiang Mai. I didn’t talk much on the bus ride back. I was caught in my own mind and before i knew it Chiang Mai was there.

Leaving the rainforests and all the energy it provides was harder than I thought.

I really missed my Washington and Oregon wildernesses for the same reason.  They reach deep inside you, take root and like the sunshine, recharge the soul. The trouble is once they are in you they never let go.  These roots bind to your bones and embed themselves deep into your heart and mind.  I need these forests and my sunshine to exist now and I will return to them soon

Being back in the city has reignited my wanderlust in a big way. I’m really restless, not sleeping at all and not terribly happy to be sitting still. I have no interest in elephant tours, cooking schools or zip lining here. I need more.

Something I will work on, my restless mind, but it is almost time to move on from here I think.

That’ll do for today – typing on an iPhone still sucks. 8 days til my laptops fixed and then I can go.

Happy 4th of July for my USA friends 🙂

Gpu blues

My MacBook Air is no more. 

It is bereft of life, etc etc.

I am devastated slightly and missing it’s silky comforting touch under my fingertips. Last night its magical GPU failed, sending my display into a decipherable test pattern of rainbow colours and kernel panicking my OS to death. 

The Apple online support guys were excellent and I was hopeful right up to when I told them where I was . Ah. Chiang Mai.  Ok. 

The local Apple repairer was set up in a slick minimalist shop in a slick over the top Mall IT centre so again I was hopeful . The tech even spoke some English . Perfect . 

Diagnosis = DOA at Apple Repair Centre Chiang Mai . Main board . At least 2 weeks repair. Parts from Singapore.

Dear God no. 2 weeks? There goes photo and video editing, Netflix and my movies. 

How am I going to fit in with the cool coffee shop crowd? 

Dang. ( thats my go to curse word now) 

Leaving my shiny aluminium baby with a complete stranger felt like dropping my daughter off at her first day of daycare. 

Strange how we get attached to these tech things. 

My consolation? Drowning my sorrows in bacon with The best BLT I’ve even seen and blogging about it with my last piece of blogging capable tech – my iPhone . 

Luckily I have books galore and now little distraction (as Netflix on an iPhone is a last act of lazy desperation and unsustainable)

Time to read.    

So…Monday

Its challenging to do nothing.

Yesterday was spent moving from the guest house in the city out to my temporary home away from home a little further out from the general hubbub of Nimmanahaeminda Road (Google it) and a bit closer to nature.

Meetings, packing, moving, running around. Then it was done and I was alone.

…now what?

It was dead silent most of last night, except for the gentle whining of the mosquitoes and the hypnotic tickticktick of the electric mosquito repellent gadget my host had kindly left for me.

So I had plenty of time to do nothing. Instead I bustled around, checking my super fast internet, flicking through Netflix, Facebook, news sites, job sites, entertainment sites, travel sites, organising my gear, reorganising my gear again, tidying up and generally  having a good sticky beak around. I watched a NBC lifestream to see what was going  on in the world. Brexit, Nazis, violence. I turned it off fairly quickly. How do I distract myself from myself?

Hmmm…

OK lets try to read.

I’m reading a few books at the moment – Both of these are appealing to me for very different reasons.. what I’m carrying around in my bag is ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed (yes that one), and a fascinating title by Bessel Van Der  Kolk M.D that  a friend recommended called “The Body Keeps The Score – Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of trauma”.

The former has really resonated with me lately and has probably had a direct impact on me being where I am right now. The very idea of cutting yourself out of societies picture and undertaking a spirit journey of self appeals to both the explorer and the mild sociopath in me (the compulsive sex, infidelity, and heroin addiction don’t apply). When you hit bottom and claw your way back up again on so many levels. Beautiful. I will do the Pacific Crest trail next year, Spring 2017, after some prep and training of course. Ive experienced some of this stunning country and I need to immerse myself in it completely forever.

The latter explores the effects of violent trauma (PTSD specifically) and how it can severely compromise an individuals capacity for pleasure, love, self control and trust (amongst other things) and further explores possible therapeutic treatments utilising the brains neuroplasticity; like sports, drama, meditation and yoga. Its fascinating and scary and unfortunately/fortunately explains a lot of things that have been bugging me over the years.  So many lightbulb moments for me in this book. Looks like I’m on the right track (more on that later,  I hardly know you!)

So I read and read and read until I fell asleep with the book falling onto my chest. And it was the best nights sleep I’ve had in ages.

So whats my point? – I have to allow myself to be still. Force myself. To shape this internal monologue rather than just let it control me. To let distractions fall away (no I’m not going to say ‘live in the moment’ or ‘be mindful’ but that’s what it is I guess) To wean myself off this Western notion of always keeping busy and being productive.  Activity is my heroin and its a fucker of a withdrawal.

I guess that now I’m settled, at last or the next month, I have time to do nothing, to explore not just this country but myself as well.

And what am I doing right now? Sitting in a vegan cafe called The Larder having a vegetarian breakfast and a coffee – reading my books, staying mindful, and slowing down.

Oh its Jens’s birthday today. Happy Birthday JK! I sent flowers anyway. Birthdays are special.

 

 

 

Settling in

So now I have wheels and another roof over my head.

After procuring a scooter at a decent months rate (2500 baht, which isn’t bad), braving the regular 5pm downpour and getting rather soaked, I was feeling pretty damn good. How could I not?  Zooming though the bustling streets of the Old City of Chiang Mai with its moat and ruined walls, sun shining, no schedules, no timeframes, no deadlines. no direction, no phone, no map.

Shit.

Where the Hell am I?

Thats was me for most of yesterday. After a brief exploration of the Old City yesterday and an excursion up the mountain to the wonderful Doi SuThep, I went over to my friends CB place for an afternoon hike up into the hills. Right about the time as the afternoon storm swept though, turning the dirt paths and steeply sloping gradients of Mae Hia into swiftly flowing muddy torrents and iceslick mudslides. Getting soaked in the rain brought back memories of a forgotten childhood joy and it was such a wonderful experience to get lost in the rainstorm; soaking and slipping and sliding down the mountain.

And then it was time to ride home in the dark.

Oh.

Have you even noticed how things look completely different at night, in a rainstorm?

The simple instructions – “turn left then go straight” proved to be beyond me and I quickly found myself lost in the pouring rain, navigating sans mobile (no sim card) and sans map (no preparation). Luckily I had 2 frames of reference – the flight path of the incoming aircraft  and the location of the brightly lit temple on the mountainside Id visited earlier in the day. Apart from that – no damn idea where I was.

So I rode on into the night, eyes stinging from the rain, spray from passing cars and insects, cursing my lack of foresight and everything else around me. Riding around and around in large circles, passing unfamiliar and alien countryside, it took me about an hour to actually let go of the anger and frustration about getting lost and just decided to gowith it. It wasn’t that big a deal after all- so I just…explored. That name looks familiar, lets try that. Where does that main road go? lets see…right, follow that incoming jet. Wheres the mountain again? Look there..backpackers!!! Navigating by landmarks might take a while by its the only way to fly when you have no other choice!

Short story long I found my way home – almost 2 hours later and soaking wet but it didn’t matter. I’d done it old school.

It later occurred to me (discussing my odyssey over a San Miguel) that this is exactly why I’m here.

To get lost and be able to find my way.

Perfect!  🙂

ps – remind me to tell you my story about the raven in Nepal.