And now for something completely different ?!!
Jan 23, 2011
|They say that a week is a long time in politics, but it can also be the case in your private life. To prove the point, I am now back in the Netherlands having decided last week that it was time to return from my trip. To cut a long story short, I realised after 5 days staying in the small town of Chom Thong that there wasn't much to do there apart from going drinking and that I would not enjoy living there for two months. Considering alternatives, I realised that I was also not very interested to return to and live in Chiang Mai and soon determined that I had just got tired of travelling and reached the end of my trip.
Although I am disappointed at not having the energy to do the 6 weeks of voluntary work that I had originally planned and contribute something to the local community, I also realised that I will be contributing lots to the local community when I return to Holland as a partner to Agnes and her two lovely kids Patricia and Leon ! The fact that I was willing to swap two months of Thai Dry Season (30C) for two months of Dutch winter (0C) was also a sign that it was time to go back. And so on Thursday, January 20th, I boarded a Bangkok Airways flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and transferred to an Aeroflot flight to Amsterdam via Moscow ! An enthusiastic Agnes was there to pick me up at the airport drive me back to Geldrop where we finally arrived at 1.00am on Friday !
So what happened in between ? Well after saying goodbye to Agnes at Chiang Mai airport on Saturday morning, I returned to the guesthouse where I received a call from volunteer Ken who was heading into Chiang Mai with new volunteer Sarah who had got in from the USA the night before. Meeting up with them, we sorted some things out in the city before making the 90 minute trip out to Chom Thong. By the time, we arrived there I wasn't feeling very well and had a massive headache and a mild fever. Not wanting to be unsocial, I joined Ken's tour of the town and later trip for lunch although I would much preferred to have gone to bed. Unfortunately, lunch with local Phy and her husband and kids, turned into dinner in one of the local bars. This got a lot livelier than I had planned and I was glad therefore around 10pm when Ken suggested that I drive a local Englishman home since I had drunk almost nothing. This gave me the excuse to bring Ken and Sarah to the next party and then return quietly to the volunteer house on my own.
Unfortunately, on Sunday I wasn't feeling any better and my one excursion out of the house, to walk to the Tesco's 4km away, turned out to be more of a "do not faint stroll" rather than a "walk". Fortunately, I got back OK but immediately went straight to bed with my fever and some of the tablets that I had picked up at the pharmacy. On Monday, I was woken by a call from Rocky to tell me that Sarah lost bags had arrived and she had returned to Chiang Mai meaning I was in the house on my own. The rest of my day was spent in bed with my temperature peaking at 103F or 39.5C and my sole activity being to walk down to the kitchen to make myself some food.
By Tuesday, I was feeling a bit better with my temp back under 100F so I started doing some work for the voluntary group which seemed to improve my health even further. I was finally able to tour the town a bit that afternoon and check out the limited range of local cafe's and restaurants. By Wednesday morning, my fever was at its lowest level yet but unfortunately it started to increase again during the day heading back to 102C meaning that I wasn't able to work again. Deciding to bombard the fever with a good cure of paracetemol, I finally got my fever back to normal again.
One of the other practical problems in the town was the lack of a decent internet connection either in the house, in the school or in the town, forcing me to work using a very slow wireless GPRS modem. Given that I would normally need to be online about 60% of the day, this was not something that I was very happy about. Things came to ahead on my Skype call with Agnes on Wednesday as the call cut out every 2 minutes or so making it impossible to have a decent conversation. This was something, that I was not willing to compromise on as for me it was essential to have a solid way of communicating with Agnes during my remaining two months in Thailand. Realistically, my only option would therefore be to move back into Chiang Mai where there was lots of WIFI around and a decent 3G mobile connection. Having thought about it further however I realised that I didn't really have the desire to spend another two months in Chiang Mai as I had spent a month there already on this trip. Soon it became clear, that in reality I was just tired of travelling and I lacked the desire to just keep going. Rather than spend two months unhappy in Thailand, I decided I would be better to return to Europe, so that night I headed back to Chiang Mai and booked myself back into the accommodation where I had stayed before.
My week in Chiang Mai was fairly quiet, catching up on my blog, e-mails and skyping with Agnes to agree details of my return. In between, I watched a lot of movies but also toured the town a bit in the afternoons and enjoyed my last few hours of good weather. I did have one final thing I had to do and that was to pick an argument with a local !!. Basically, everyday in Chiang Mai you are greeted by the sight of Doi Suthep mountain looming about 1000m over the town and although I had been up there twice by motorbike, I felt my trip would be unfulfilled if I didn't at least attempt the 15km climb once by bicycle. And so on Tuesday, I hired a mountain bike for two days so I could take on the mountain. My first attempt was particularly tough as I had not been on a bike for two months and as I had been sick most of the previous week. The climb was therefore very hard going and I was glad to take a break at the 9km viewpoint as I was just about ready to collapse. After a 20 minute break or so I continued and completed the rest of the climb but was again close to exhaustion at the top a fact made worse by the fact that the one cyclist I had managed to overtake caught me again just before the top after shadowing me for 2km. The downhill of course was brilliant although it was a shame it lasted less than 15minutes.
Wednesday was my second attempt and although a little saddle sore from day one, I was determined to go all the way this time. Feeling fitter and knowing the hill better allowed me to pace myself just a little better and although still tough, I was making much more confident progress up the hill. This became clear as I came across the previous days cyclist at the 6km mark and noticed that I was slowly gaining on him. This time he was the one who had to stop at the 9km viewpoint and I was energetic enough to keep going without a stop eventually reaching the Doi Suthep temple tired, but in better condition than the previous day, happy in the knowledge that there is life in the old dog yet. This time the downhill was even better with me overtaking all transport encountered on the way down while hitting speeds of 60/70km !!!
Back in Chiang Mai, I took the opportunity to return to Hot Chili, one of my favourite restaurants, followed by a final Thai massage, before heading to bed early so I wouldn't miss my 7am flight to Bangkok the following day. There my connection went smoothly despite having to check in again and by 10am I was boarding my 10 hour flight to Moscow ! 5 Movies later, we arrived on time in a snow covered Moscow airport to temperatures of -10C, just 40C colder than Chiang Mai !! Fortunately, I was able to stay inside the warm terminal building only having brace the cold when boarding my final flight to Amsterdam. There I arrived in an empty airport around 23.00 where I was greeted by an enthusiastic Agnes ! The drive back in the dark was interesting as it was strange to see all the familiar places and street signs again. Finally after traffic jams !! and getting stuck for 50km behind a slow moving heavy transport we finally got to Agnes's apartment in Geldrop around 1.00am on Friday, exactly 24 hours after my flight left Chiang Mai !
More news on life back in Holland to follow soon !
PS: short term I can be reached on +32 489 961 905 until I get a new Dutch phone number.