Favourite local dish: Thai curry Food I am now sick of: Thai curry Number of pairs of sunglasses that have broken since setting off: 8 Illness tally: dodgy tummies - 2, fevers - 3, mosquito bites - thousands Biggest success story: kids' swimming skills Biggest challenge: initiating homeschooling without causing a fight Thing I miss the most: hot yoga Budget: blown by exactly the same amount for two months in a row. Solution? We upped it.
3 SMALL KIDS, 2 CRAZY ADULTS, 1 YEAR TO TRAVEL THE WORLD
POST 8: 5th November 2016, Mae Nam, Ko Samui, Thailand.
So, the rains we were waiting for? Well, they came. In style. I'm not talking about a little bit of drizzle here and there. The kind that covers you with a glossy sheen. No. Big, fat, oversized globules of liquid that splat on you and soak you from head to toe in around 30 seconds. Thai rainy season is not like some other versions where the heavens dump their load during an hour or so and then blue skies return. Here, when it starts, it doesn't finish. And in our experience so far, lasts for between one to three days. Straight.
Photo caption: the state of the "roads" at this time of year makes for both scary and exhilirating exploration!
Luckily for us, for the first time since we left, we are holed up in a rather flash, two-bedroom pool villa which boasts all the mod cons including drier (so unenvironmentally friendly but nothing else works in this humidity), English cartoons (for emergencies), snazzy air con and super fast wifi. Oh, and a huge communal, jungle-view, infinity pool, as well as a gym. And it just so happens that it is our cheapest accommodation to date. Go figure.
Photo caption: our pimp pool villa acquired through heavy negotiation on Airbnb
What the rains have forced us to do is to chill the &^%$ out. We needed to after 7 weeks hard-core travelling. And we will not regret it with 8 weeks travelling just round the corner. And yet I still find this SO hard to do. At least I have twelve more days here in which to practise. Because Thailand is the perfect place for it. Why? Because that is all anyone seems to do around here. Most shops or businesses have just the one member of staff/owner that spends most of their time lying down or sleeping (in full view of the entrance) until a customer actually walks in. Because they can. There is no shame in 'slacking off' because that is not how it is seen.
Photo caption: our homeschooling project: beach manadala (top left); it's never too early to learn how to make a mojito (top right); sampling the tempura prawn at our village 'walking night market' (bottom left); our local, dragon-adorned Chinese temple (bottom right)
And that is part of the beauty of the (unspoilt) Asian way of life: ever-increasing sales and capital growth are not the key factors for success here, just earning enough to supplement your lifestyle/pay for your rent/contribute to the daily shop. So there is no marketing, not many billboards and no pushy sales talk. We, the consumers, are under no outside pressure to buy (this is not the same as 'inside' pressure - there can be a fearsome pitch if you cross the shop threshold) and they are happy with the business they can get.
Photo caption: the coolest and most eccentric jungle bookshop (top); coconuts galore (bottom left); mobile vegetable stall (bottom right)
The problem is, I just don't resonate with Thailand in the way I do with Indonesia. I never have done. Firstly, I'm not a great fan of the type of expat that is drawn to live here permanently. Rather piggishly, I don't feel they portray the best side of British culture and rather selfishly, I don't like being reminded of that when I am abroad. Secondly, there is something I find unsettling about interactions with the locals. In comparison to the Burmese for example, they are exceedingly reserved, they seem to be holding something back, sussing you out and their slightly poker-faced way of dealing with us makes me a little nervous. There must be a reason for this. Because as the Asian chairman of a corporate behemoth once reminded me, there is a reason that Thailand is the only SE Asian country never to have been colonised.
Photo caption: hidden natural jewels lie just beyond the 52km-long ring road (aka tourist 'strip')
That said, I am feeling happier here than I was. Not that my mood on arrival had much to do with where we were, on retrospect. I was so angry with myself for being ungrateful for what surrounded me - the exotic otherness that I so often crave when I am fully ensconced on my parochial hamster wheel back home. But today I had an insight that came to me during my first-time-in-five-weeks-run that put everything in perspective, as so often happens when I go running. And it was this: that as cliched as it sounds, I am who I am. And I shouldn't feel bad for not being anyone else, or for not holding anyone else's opinions or values.
The insight came off the back of realising that I have a short pleasure span. This is not to be confused with attention span - I can be very focused (most would probably say 'intense') and I am one of the most methodical people I know - but I need variety. So whilst this year has been a time to court my bohemian side after nearly 20 years of pandering to the bourgeois, I already feel ready to go home, to reinsert myself into the predictability and routine of the school term, the four seasons, the festive Winter grind that is Halloween, Xmas, Valentine's day and Easter.
Photo caption: and when the sun comes out - we make the most of the beach!
And what dawned on me today is that that is OK. I am not a bad person for wanting a life that is full of both (Asian) adventure travel and a habitual schedule. It is not ungrateful to want more than what you have right now or to want to mix it up from time to time, however good you have it right now. It is just WHO I AM. This came as quite a relief and means I no longer castigate myself every time I see an Instagram shot of a school fireworks display and feel a teensy weensy bit like I am perhaps missing out.
Photo caption: exotic (and HUGE) Thai flora and fauna
It doesn't help that Thailand is definitely quieter than it would usually be at the moment and not just because of rainy season. Their 'beloved' King died just before we got here and mourning is a long drawn out affair which not only involves wearing black for 30 days but also not partaking in any form of celebration be that a fire show or any other type of entertainment. Amazingly (to me), 95% of the population is adhering to this and most of the clothes stalls are now selling only black garments which is quite an odd sight for such a hot country.
Indeed, such is their devotion to the royal family that many businesses on Koh Samui are now closed whilst the owners pilgrimage to Bangkok to 'pay their respects' to their former ruler. From my tentative enquiries with taxi drivers (usually the source of all knowledge), I understand that the official mourning period lasts for one year. I can't help but wonder whether we in the UK will be as conscientious in our 'devotion' when the time comes?
Photo caption: clothes stalls full of monochrome items (top); even a modest village house boasts its own 'memorial shrine' to the King (bottom)
So, all in all, this period of in between-ness has been challenging and rewarding in equal measure. I am learning to chill out (kind of), we are getting used to spending time together as a family without an exploration 'agenda' and we are experiencing a more domestic side of our 'living like locals' goal: one that involves shopping in a sprawling hypermarket every other day as we indulge our (expensive) desires not to eat like locals for every single meal of the day and more excitingly, one that also includes popping to the nearby, local market to try our hand at recreating at home, the curries for which this country is renowned. We haven't quite managed this yet - probably because, with my neophyte enthusiasm for new and unusual ingredients, I am putting them all in together. Which is not the Thai way. Unsurprisingly, specific things go in specific dishes. (I found this out to my embarrassment this morning as I was reprimanded by the market stall holder over my incorrect usage of lemon grass: NOT for curries. Oops.)
Photo caption: curried crab anyone? (left) the curry paste stall in our local market (right)
In twelve days we leave for Laos where we will backpack from the top of this long, thin country right down to the very bottom. Which means twelve more days to practise relaxing, twelve more days to get more into my book about manifesting abundance and twelve more days to action this in real life on my as-yet-unknown, online Money Abundance Challenge run by my new fellow-worldschooling-mum-of-three-travelling-friend, Natalie Jenkins (EFT expert and coach). Oh, and perhaps I'll try the odd £6-an-hour coconut oil massage or two for good measure too...
To see where we are on a map, click here!
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