A vacation from our vacation

5 Apr

Right, so, the problem with long-term travel is that you get tired. Hard to imagine when you are still dreaming and planning your trip, but you get tired of constant change. Three months in and we needed a break. So, reasonably, we took a vacation.

We are currently in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. Our seven days here, the time needed to apply for an Indian visa, have turned into three weeks.

Already on our second day back, happily drunk on friendly people, some of the best food in the world and the relaxed vibe in the walled inner city, my boyfriend began questioning our previous travels.

“Oh Kari, why did we ever leave this place?”

We spent the next few days digesting this.

Can you get tired of travel?

Yes. It turns out, long-term travel is not a series of short vacations strung together. After carrying our entire world on our backs for close to three months we needed to stay put for a while. We needed a week or two away from Wikitravel, Tripadvisor and nights spent emailing potential hotels and making travel arrangements.

Our original plan was to do this in India. But, the weekend before we were to pick up our visas in Chiang Mai, we decided to splurge. In 37C sweltering heat, what we needed was a pool. A BIG pool. So we headed to the ECO Resort Chiang Mai. But there, sitting on the edge of the olympic sized swimming pool was Phil from Oxford, calling our luxurious hang-out “silly cheap”.

Luxury on the cheap?

Within seven minutes of talking with Phil, my illusions of being a well-ripened traveller burst. Talking with Phil was like having someone feed champagne, chocolate covered strawberries and Christmas presents through a tight travel budget.

Here he was, doing exactly what we did at a fraction of the cost. We refused to admit how much we were paying when he said “Four pounds! Can you believe it!?” And it continued. Our favourite green curry had set us back a tiny 75 baht. Phil of course took us to his favourite 45 baht curry place. Our tuk tuk ride from town cost 150 baht. Inevitably, Phil laughed at the driver's suggested price until he charmed his way down to a 60 baht fare.

And as the days passed in paradise, sipping a fantastic iced cappuccino for 35 baht on a sun bed, Phil was unknowingly and tirelessly promoting his retirement hangout. I half suspected he was trying, in his blatant niceness, to get a gang of us together so he would have more people to play Uno with.

Because the ECO Resort Chiang Mai is like the sequel to the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Thailand-style. Elderly Europeans have taken up residence in old school buildings posing as hotel rooms. Walking past trees heavy with mango and jackfruit on their way to the pool, these post 60s heros appear to have outsourced their retirement to somewhere cheaper and attractively exotic. Though, the appeal of being truly idle is not lost on the below 60s either..

And now Songkran was coming up

Meanwhile, the Indian Holi Festival, where people throw coloured powder at each other, had just passed. And now Songkran, the mother of all water fights, was coming up in Thailand. In mid-April, the hottest time of the year, the entire country stops for three days (normally ends up being a five-day event) for a giant water fight. Reportedly, it is a week where it is okay to chase a granny with a water gun, ambush a stranger in a tuk tuk with a bucket of water or simply climb on top of a pick-up truck and splash water at anyone you drive past.

Surely we could not manage to just miss out on two of the best festivals in the world? But it would mean three weeks in Chiang Mai…

But then, Phil returned one day from an afternoon away from the pool and triumphantly stated, “Oh, I found a place today where they have really nice noodle soup for three baht. THREE baht – that is like seven cents!”

While he laughed, my boyfriend and I looked at each other. What can I say? Well, he said it first.

You know, we could just stay…?

And apparently there is a way to keep up with the travel-savvy Joneses. Simply ask yourself:

What would Phil do?

Well, the first thing Phil would do would be to move out of the overpriced 'double room' to a 'shared dorm', which turned out to sleep only two persons anyway and be a dorm only in the name. He would also know of the deal on the hotel's own website. Check a box for a minimum four day stay and end up staying for two weeks next to a 25 metre swimming pool during one of the greatest festivals in the world for what two nights at a dingy hotel in Europe would cost.

A life of leisure at a bargain price?

It really was a no brainer. We were staying put.

Pool hours between eight to six!

Luxury travel is having the time to read, read and read.

It's summer in Thailand. So warm, even the dogs have given up.

One of the many temples in the inner city of Chiang Mai.

A monk and his robe.

A woman getting decent.

Although in the mountains, it is still around 40 degrees in Chiang Mai now.

Heaven never helps the man who will not act. Sounds like the saying for this year!



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