Chiang Mai, Thailand
This is it, my last day and I’ve grounded myself – I’m not allowed to leave the guesthouse, I’m to stay here and relax whether I like it or not! I’ve never done a resort style holiday where you sit by a pool, reading a magazine and sipping cocktails – it’s always felt like a waste of time and opportunity to explore and discover. Of course, I’m lucky to come from a city where I can theoretically hang out at a beautiful beach anytime I want so it doesn’t feel especially exotic to me to do so in other countries. Perhaps that’s why I’ve always tended to gravitate to the old, cold and cultural.
Of course all of the sun-worshipping, resort-revelling, beach-bunnies out there will laugh at my paltry imitation of their ideal getaway. To begin with, I’m in Thailand – famous for its breathtaking beaches and affordable resort packages… in the South. I’m landlocked up in the much cooler North without a coast in site. There is a pool but it’s pretty small and there’s no one to fetch me anything but that’s fine by me – the weather is warm, I have a deckchair and a good book so I’m willing to give it a go.
And you know what, I liked it! I think I could get used to this. It’s interesting now at the end of the journey to look back on the few assumptions I made at the beginning such as thinking I’d have days, weeks and months on end to do nothing but read books, write hand written letters home and generally find myself at various loose ends with nothing much to do. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The last 7 or so months have been jam packed with barely enough time to catch my breath. As it stands, I’ve scarcely read three books so it felt truly indulgent to stretch out in the warm shade and finally engross myself in Tirra Lirra by the River by Jessica Anderson, a very thoughtful and touching birthday gift from my dear friend Elizabeth and a very timely tale.
Between chapters, I’d take a dip and then dry off again. Other guests came and went but by and large, I had the place to myself and soaked in the tranquility of it. Being relatively inexperienced at this particular brand of holiday making, I did get restless at times so broke up the day with visits back to my room to check my messages and send out a new batch, check-in online for tomorrows flights and generally, just change the scenery.
And so I passed my last day, sitting here and there, feeling at times that I was a pretender to someone else’s holiday and feeling equally repelled and drawn to thoughts of my onward journey. As relaxed as I was, my mind still raced. Looking back, I can see so, so much. Looking forward, I can see an arrivals gate but nothing beyond it.
Come late afternoon, I took my time getting ready for the evening ahead. Today is Joy’s birthday so she and Ulrike are hosting a Thai barbeque for their family, friends and guests. I was seated at a table with two couples each on their honeymoon – they were lovely but in terms of answering the inevitable “so what brings you here?”, I didn’t feel I had a lot to offer in my answer that was conducive to their wedded bliss. I kept it light but as the night progressed, I could feel my calm wearing off and the storm front moving in.
After cake and presents, the staff and students started a singalong. Their high spirits were too discordant with my own so I made my excuses and headed back to my room to enjoy my panic attack in private. I’ve started packing but I don’t have the heart to finish. Strength and courage seem to have abandoned me and I’m in that weird window of time that doesn’t quite match up to any of the time zones I could reach out to.
I’ll try to sleep but I don’t fancy my chances tonight!