I’ve always had this incredibly powerful draw to Thailand. I just knew that I was going to fall in love and want to spend the rest of my days drinking coconut water and eating pad thai. The thoughts of eating deliciously spicy food in an exotic landscape for super cheap is appealing. Knowing that a lot of digital nomads make Thailand their home, I was eager to discover what drew them to this country.
However, Thailand did not welcome us very nicely.
Flying in we were impressed with the efficiency of the airport, taxi stand system and the highway system. It only took us 35 minutes to reach our hotel (which apparently is a fluke…Bangkok is one of the most congested cities for traffic), where we checked in quickly. In Bangkok, we stayed in the popular backpacker district that is close to lot of sites. Outside our hotel (and on nearly every street), the nightly street market popped to life with neon signs, lights and hawkers selling everything from toys to luggage.
We stopped at a popular Pad Thai stall to devour our first flavors of Thailand. Thai food has been voted as the #1 food of choice by my friends worldwide. The flavor combinations are perfect, sweet, salty, spicy, bitter…it’s got it all.
Except that it didn’t. At least not the pad thai that I had, which was oily and flavorless. Disappointment was washed down with a Chang beer while we waited for the arrival of our friends from Malaysia and Europe. The nasty pad thai was nearly forgotten as they arrived at night.
Strike 1 Thailand: Worst Pad-Thai Ever near Rambuttri Village
We spent one day in Bangkok running around to embassies and then had tickets to ride the night train (14 hours) from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, getting there a few days before the Yi Peng Lantern Festival, which was stunning. (Click to view the video).
We booked 2 top bunks in 2nd class ($45 total). We were all excited, especially the kids, to get to ride and sleep on a train! The air-conditioned train car was set to mimic the blowing fierce winter winds of Chicago. The thin blanket didn’t do much to retain heat, luckily we had sarongs to cover up. We slept decently despite being cold all night. I have no idea why they keep it blasting cold. We welcomed the heat when we arrived in Chiang Mai.
The guesthouse we were scheduled to stay at picked us up from the train station. They were very surprised that we had children and were quite rude, but they drove us to the guesthouse, where we continued to be harassed about not disclosing that we had children. I told them that I had emailed them to book a double room, but I didn’t state how many adults or children would be in it. It just didn’t occur to me to do so. We’ve never had a problem with our children being in our rooms since they are so small, but clearly, the lady of the house did have a problem. She was getting very agitated and accused me of sneaking my children all over Asia. I laughed at the ridiculousness of it, which didn’t make her feel any better. Then I offered to pay her for the extra people, after all, it was only a $13/night hotel room, I was willing to pay a few more dollars for my children to stay with me. The whole situation escalated to a point where there was no return for this red-faced Thai woman. She asked me to leave, I asked for my money back, she asked for the key, I said “give me my money first” and so it went. A rope pull to see who would win. I was happy to leave her guesthouse. And I’ll be happy to give her nasty feedback too.
We walked over to a restaurant for a drink and Mr. King went searching for another place to live. Happily, we found a beautiful, brand new place with a large bedroom/living room combo that we loved staying in.
Strike 2 Thailand: Getting kicked out of our guest house
Settled into our place, we headed to our friend’s rental home to go swimming in their community pool. The pool was beautiful and huge and there was not a soul in site, which meant that our group of families could take over the place without any complaints. The children were having fun swimming and jumping off the edges, ledges and faux rocks of the pool. A big German guy appeared and started parading his brute German strength around. Then we climbed up on the ledge and did a huge belly flop in the pool. At one point, the children were on the ledge when he climbed up there and he started to grab them and throw them in the pool. We screamed “NO” and all sorts of other things. He threw in 2 of the girls in our group and then he tried to grab G. G quickly ducked out of his way partially. But the German guy was still able to get a slight hold on him trying to push him in. G ended up falling upside down, head first, crashing down on huge rocks. I jumped in the pool immediately, grabbed my son, put pressure on his gushing head hoping he didn’t notice the red blood spilling down his face.
It’s amazing what an instant can do. In that instant, I knew he was going to be fine, but he needed care. We darted into the water to some shade, my friends ran to get help and the guy just stood around, drunk, oblivious to the intensity of the situation. He was sorry, but all I needed him to do is GET OUT of G’s sight.
The paramedics arrived in what seemed like minutes and cleaned the 2 gashes on his head. The bleeding stopped and I had to decide whether to go to the hospital for stitches or to take care of it myself. G was adamant about NOT going to see the doctor. I had to assess the situation quickly. The gash remained at surface level, but it was a deep surface level gash. The fact that the bleeding stopped fairly quickly was a good sign. My friend suggested super-gluing it together. Seeing G’s distress I knew if we had gone to the hospital, THAT would have been the trauma for him. So, we headed back to the Lybbert’s home and literally, super glued G’s head back together. (BTW – he’s totally healed and fine now). Good thing he inherited his hard head from his mother. The kids spent the rest of the day reminiscing and talking about what they will do next time something like that is happening. I think having his friends discuss it and come up with different plans helped G heal the emotional wound of the incident. Friends have the power to heal.
Strike 3 Thailand: Giving my son head trauma.
Thailand, you’ve un-welcomed us long enough! We’re here for 3 more weeks can you please try and play nicey with us. We’ve had a rough start, but your warmth is coming through the markets, colors and even the food.