When you assume

February 27, 2011  |  by jess m  |  Thailand  |  1 Comment

Before we left one thing was really bumming me out. Coffee. Or the impending lack of coffee really. The last time we were in Thailand we didn’t see one delicious cup of coffee, or any sort of espresso drink of any kind. At best it was a slightly warm cup of instant Nescafe with powered creamer.  And it makes sense, it is Asia and all, the land of tea. Thing is, I’m not much of a fan. Sitting down in the morning with a lovely cup of green tea just doesn’t do it for me.

So I did what was only logical, I went completely overboard on the coffee before we left. If there was a moment when I could shove my face with some sort of coffee concoction, I would. Cappuccino in the afternoon. Espresso after dinner. Iced coffee on an IV drip, administered at regular intervals throughout the day. I was like a squirrel stockpiling for a long, long, winter. Except, you know, more alert.

So imagine my surprise when we arrived in Ko Lanta and opened the menu at our bungalow to discover a page of coffee drinks. Great coffee too. I couldn’t believe it. And it wasn’t like we just happened to be staying at some caffeinated Shangri-La. There was a full on espresso bar next door. Not to mention the one down the street. And the one down the street from that.  I was worried when we left for quiet little Ko Jum our luck would run out, but that was not the case.

Coffee, it would seem, has arrived in Thailand.

How absurd would it have been if I had shoved a 12 pack of Starbucks Via into my bag just for emergencies? Something I had seriously considered before I realized just how small a 22” backpack was.

All this coffee business has made us realize some of the other assumptions we’ve been lugging around that have already proven to have no basis in reality.

First, we were positive we were going to be the only douchebags running around with a computer. Four years ago I didn’t see a laptop the entire time we were gone. Now, sitting around our beach bar at night it’s like a Tuesday afternoon at Ritual Coffee in San Francisco.

Second, just because your power comes from a generator, doesn’t mean you won’t get wireless internet.  Especially if you’re sitting in an open air thatched roof restaurant on the beach.

Third, just because you don’t see a road doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Or more specifically, just because the “road” that you know of is no more than a seriously rutted path through a rubber plantation doesn’t mean that a 14 year old girl can’t get a 4×4 through it in no time flat.

Fourth, just because Jess C is in the shade does not mean she won’t get a blistering sunburn. On the other hand, if she’s in the shade and wearing SPF 50 applied hourly, she develops what I think everyone would agree is a touch of a tan. Which also disproves one of my assumptions about her, that her skin was capable of being any color other than alabaster or fuchsia.

Fifth, having each relocated our beloved kitties before we left, we were pretty sure we’d never find any cute animals to cuddle, just mangy, sandy, slightly rabid ones. Check out these extremely soft un-crusty man eaters:

Sixth, that maps could offer some kind of a guide as to where you were or where you might be going. All of the maps we downloaded in advance in a moment of hyper-efficiency are a joke. I am not even sure that they are maps of any place in Thailand. The hand drawn map that’s been photocopied to near death that we got from a guy in the village is gold. It has all of the jungle trails on it. Which, as it turns out, are the real roads around here anyway. See point three above.

No doubt more to come.

The Beginning

February 27, 2011  |  by jess c  |  Leaving, Packing, Stuff For Wanderers, Thailand  |  14 comments

Thirty cubic liters is generally a void too small to spend much time contemplating. Certainly so living in the big world of apartments and closets and personal vehicles for carriage. But, when it comprises the sum total of space you have to place all of your belongings in for a year, it becomes at once vast in anticipation and miniscule in possibility. Which is why the seventy-two hours leading up to our departure was mostly filled with packing and repacking, evaluating and editing for both function and fashion, and then undoing to begin again.

Sooo much stuff, so little space.

Should we bring two, or three, bars of solid shampoo from Lush? They’re heavy (when you’ve taken to measuring in grams), but if we take liquids we’ll be limited to the TSA’s nonsensical 3-1-1 edict (sidebar: reviewing the TSA website for the carryon rules, note that you can carryon up to the limit in frozen solid food, but still only a tiny amount of conditioner… or, as Jess M observed, all the frozen bear you can eat, but only three ounces of gravy). In any case, will there be any shampoo in Asia? (There is). What about the tiny packets of Woolite that seem just too perfectly travel-sized to leave behind? After all, how else will we get our painstakingly chosen outfits laundered? (Since surely there are no laundry services outside the United States). And what about those clothes? Could three tank tops, two skirts, three dresses and a pair of shorts really be enough for a year? Will we find our selves stranded in a freak cold snap if we leave the fleece jackets behind (the specific models which had, after all, been chosen specifically for their lightness and pack-ability).

In the end, not making the cut were the fleece jackets and extra pairs of long pants, as well as bathing suits we hoped would be cute on us, if only another ten pounds would miraculously (and undoubtedly, right?) just melt off our hips and bellies once we’re running about in the tropics. Also left behind was the fourth dress, the gauzy tunic shirt (perhaps to be later replaced in India), that extra skirt that was just adorable, and spare flip-flops. Indispensables include Chaco sandals––so comfy but so heavy––as well as running/hiking shoes, and a surplus of underwire bras in sizes which we continue to suspect cannot easily be replaced at the local Asian clothier. And of course, Jess M’s Sonicare.

Maybe if we organize it outside the bag, it will magically get organized inside the bag?

The results of this arduous selection process, pictured at the beginning of this post, are absurdly small and deceptively heavy packs––which, at 15kg each, turned out to be twice the carryon limit for Thai Royal Airways. So much for the shampoo dilemma. Of course, it holds true that when you tell the universe your plans, the universe laughs; the first two hours of our eighteen-hour flight from LAX to Bangkok claimed two packing-plan casualties. One dress, self-stained with oil-based salad dressing, and one skirt, felled by red wine (she ordered white) from a well meaning but ultimately clumsy stewardess (a skirt which Jess M’s mom so kindly tailored, and which now bears a striking resemblance to Gorbachev’s forehead).

And so here we go, our excessively curated backpacks the stuff of cosmic comedy, a few ounces lighter and duly reminded that for all the hours spent over-analyzing and micromanaging our preparations, the point––the joy we seek in this adventure––is the untamable excitement of not knowing, and not trying to plan for, what happens next.

Copyright © 2011 · Wandering Slow