…… till Burma!
Let me take you on a roller coaster of my mind….
First, book the flights months in advance. Then buy at least ten publications – both fiction and non fiction on the country that I will be visiting.
Enthusiastically start reading the first book. Take six months to read it. Then have only 5 weeks to read the other 9 books.
Know that even though the government has changed the names of most of the major towns in Burma, stubbornly refer to them as the old names, then realise that absolutely no publication or website refers to them in the old form and have to learn all the new names. Rangoon is now Yangon, Pegu is now Bago, Maymo is now Pwin Oo Lwin. Do I have still refer to the country as Burma or do I revert to its new name Myanmar?
Now the panic sets in.
Mental lists are made of items I need to purchase – mosquito spray, sleep sack, malaria tablets, VISA!
STILL NEED TO GET MY VISA!!!!
I keep a drawer for travel things. Adding bits to it as I remember what would be useful for the next upcoming trip. Whether I’m off on a European weekend break staying in hotels or backpacking across a country for two weeks, I always take the same 38l backpack, it’s just the packing list differs greatly. This time I’m loading the drawer with my point it book, ear plugs, an eye mask, the essential spork, chargers, a washing line, sink plug, door stop, tiger balm, every type of western medication I could possibly need….. oh the list goes on and on.
Guidebooks have the spine cracked now and post it indexes are marking the pages. If I was going to Europe, I would be reading the guidebook on the plane. I was going to go with the flow but as much as I want to be that care free person, I’m really not, not when I only have two weeks to explore. Maybe I’ll just try and book some accommodation other than my first night in advance…… so now a route has to be planned. Journeys between towns have to be researched, travel forums to be utilised.
The major question is DO I TRUST MY GUIDEBOOK??? ….. There was this one time in Thailand…. A town called Phetchaburi. The website for my guidebook still states “Phetchaburi should be on every cultural traveller’s itinerary”. I took a local bus from Kanchanaburi to Ratchaburi then on to Phetchaburi, I still have no idea how I managed it. No-one spoke English, I didn’t really know if I was on the right bus until I reached my destination plus I was the only female on the packed out buses whilst it wasn’t threatening I was given a lot of unwanted attention. I was then stranded at the bus station outside of Phetchaburi. Everyone had someone picking them up. Then there was just me, left in a cloud of dust. A guy on a motorbike rescued me and took me to my accommodation which I chose through my guidebook. The town is small and quiet, maybe if I had given it some time I would have found out why it should be on every cultural traveller’s itinerary but instead I packed my bags almost as soon as I had arrived and walked miles to the main bus station. This wasn’t without the drama – I got stuck in some tarmac, got shouted at by the workers, got lost trying to get to the bus station, I walked for miles with my 15kg backpack but a wonderful old man stopped to help me even though he didn’t speak English, luckily his granddaughter came out and gave me good directions. It was 10pm and packs of wild dogs kept coming out of the shadows, it was like a scene out of a Disney movie where they paint the “evil” dogs with red eyes, foaming at the mouth, I literally was chased straight out of town. I wanted to go to Krabi. No buses to Krabi, so off I popped on a 20 hour journey to Phuket to spend about three weeks worth of money on one night’s accommodation *sigh*.
Thailand was a “go with the flow” couple of weeks. That obviously does not work for me, so the next 5 weeks will be full of planning and packing anxiety. If I wasn’t nervous about this all, where is the challenge in that? I honestly do enjoy this!