I forgot to tell you about something that happened in Sukhothai that was really challenging at first – martial law was declared across Thailand. I found this out on the television one morning and I had no idea what to do. Should I be heading home? Should I be going to the Australian Embassy? Should I be hiding under the bed?
I contacted Kirby via email and he researched and found out that it wasn’t too much of a problem in northern Thailand – and even in Bangkok there weren’t too many issues for tourists. So, I decided to stay and go on to Chiang Mai. I was nervous, but I went anyway. What is that saying? Feel the fear and do it anyway?
So, onto Chiang Mai…
|My room just left of the stairs...|
I had an amazing hotel to stay at, ManathaiVillage. It really was like a little village surrounding a gorgeous pool. My room was so sweet and I had a little patio out the front of my room with chairs and a table. I sat there every morning with a coffee working out what I was going to do for the day. I was, and am, so happy that I booked over a year ago and therefore got a substantial discount on the room.
|The amazing pool...|
Beckie (who was with me at BLES) told me about the Healing Family Foundation and said it was worth a visit. It is a foundation which employs people with (mainly) intellectual disabilities to do weaving which is then made into products such as clothing, bags, coasters, and bookmarks.
|Healing Family Foundation...|
Beckie was right – it was well worth the visit. I got to meet the people who are employed there and see them weaving. The artistry of these people was brilliant. They got to choose the colors and patterns that they wanted to weave every time – and every time their creations were different. And they were happy and that is the main thing. The man who formed the foundation did so because his own son was born with an intellectual disability and he didn’t want his son to end up poor and potentially on the streets. I did a lot of my souvenir shopping at the Foundation!
On one of the days I joined Anne and Laurent on a trip to Doi Inthanon National Park. It was about an hour and a half drive away and we hired a taxi driver for the day. The day started with a visit to Napamaytanidol Chedi and Phra Mahatat Napaphon Bhumisiri (which is a Chedi built to honor the 60th birthday of King Bhumipol and Queen Sirikit. The King’s Chedi was under renovation, but it was still worth visiting, if only to see the beautiful gardens.
|The beautiful garden...|
Initially we intended to see a waterfall and then go back to Chiang Mai, but we found out about a hike that would take us up the mountain and through some incredible landscapes. We kind of wanted to go, but kind of didn’t as the sign said the hike would take 2-3 hours even though it was under four kilometers (about 4.5 miles) in distance. Eventually we decided that we would do it, and we were so happy we did. The hike brought us to incredible gullies with old rainforests, a cloud forest, open areas that could have been straight from Scotland, and a perfect vista from the edge of the mountain to the valley below. I admit I was a bit scared walking along the trail next to the edge of the mountain, but really it was quite safe. The mountain is actually the highest in Thailand (around 2,565 meters) and technically is part of the foothills of the Himalayas, so I can now say I’ve been to the Himalayas (kind of…)!
|The view down to the valley...|
|The cloud forest...|
|The old moat...|
There was so much more that I did in Chiang Mai, but I’ll tell you about one of the best things I did while I was there. I started out the morning thinking I would do a tour of the temples in Chiang Mai’s walled city, but after two very crowded temples I decided to do a walk following the wall boundary of the old city instead. It was a long walk at over 6 kilometers (around 6.7 miles) in above 35 degree Celsius (95 degree Fahrenheit) heat, but it was worth it. The ruins of the walls were incredible. It was amazing to be able to look at and touch walls that were built in the late 13th century and walk on bridges across a moat that was built around the same time. It was quiet in many of the sections and I loved the freedom of just seeing what I could see – rather than planning on seeing particular things. I saw beautiful flowers, some kind of tunnel that (while blocked now) would have led somewhere under the old city walls, stunning fountains, people fishing, kids playing…it was awe inspiring.
|Ruins of the old city walls...|
And this was all while a military coup had come into play. There was a curfew between 10pm and 5am, there were no television broadcasts at all (not even the movie channel), and there were soldiers with machine guns around the place. If anyone had said that there would be a coup while I was in Thailand before I left it might well have stopped me going at all, but when I was there and it was all happening it didn’t change the love I had (and have) for that country and its people. I felt quite safe.
Thailand is my second home and I will be back there again.
It was an amazing, life-changing, trip. I learnt so much about patience, about what is truly important, and what people can achieve. It also made me realize, as I wrote in the entry about BLES, that I have not truly been following my dreams.
It’s strange to think that if I had children I would never have gone on this trip. This isn’t because people can’t go on holidays when they have children, but rather I probably wouldn’t have thought about it and I would have wanted to spend my holidays with my kids. I certainly wouldn’t have thought of going to Thailand on my own, and I loved going all on my own to Thailand.
What does that mean? Does it mean I no longer care about not having children? No it doesn’t. It just means that I have really embraced a different life to that I would have had if Kirby and I had children. My life as it is without kids is neither better nor worse than the life I expected I would have with kids. It’s just what my life is. And I love my life.
I am BLESed.