Forced Recap: Chiang Mai 2014


Instead of being reminded by my regrets, I should be reminding myself by the way I wish to remember. It has been over two months since myself and the rest of my clan returned from our two month stint in Thailand. When we were there and after we returned we were sure that it was perhaps the best time we have spent together as a family. We gained a lot of confidence in ourselves as parents, learned a lot about our young daughter, and at the same time had a great time constantly exploring Chiang Mai. Up until the past week or two it has been almost a distant figment of my memory, and on most days it barely registers as something that we believe has marked our lives forever.

Granted when we left we knew that we had stayed our welcome and had to depart to the normality of home, work, bills, and of course Yeongtong. We did probably spend too much money, and believe it or not two months of sitting around not working can in fact get a little boring, even when you’re in Thailand. Of course we occupied ourselves but after Herself’s friend who came to visit during the month of February we saw the last few weeks as a wind down period before we headed back to Korea. And then disaster kicked in.

This is Chiang Mai

It was a disaster averted I can confidently assert now, but at the time it was my biggest challenge travelling anywhere. +1, our little angel, broke out in a really high fever. We treated her as best we knew, firstly with some paracetamol based medicine, then when a warm bath, and she seemed to be ok. However, later in the day her temperature sky-rocketed again, so we did the same but this time as we bathed her she turned blue and started shivering so much that she was practically shaking from left to right. We quickly threw some things in a bag and went to the Chiang Mai Ram hospital, which was fortunately nearby. +1 was diagnosed with pneumonia and was quickly admitted and then treated. Thanfully after a few days she was discharged along with a big box full of antibiotics to ensure the infection stayed away, and in case in her temperature rose again. It is probably this which shook us so much that allowed us to want to return home to Korea as quickly as we hoped. It was a scary moment, no doubt, but the fortunate no brainer of investing in travel insurance beforehand allowed us in the end to only worry about our child’s health, and not on the further widening of our travel purse strings.

Yet for that moment, which we all recovered from, we still turn to each other and kind of ask ourselves, ‘what about Thailand?’

The Three Amigos

Staying in Chiang Mai together for a long period was something that myself and Herself had promised ourselves for years. Ever since we first were seeing each other and rendezvoused with a charge and jump into each others arms after the last flight from Bangkok touched down in Chiang Mai on day in mid-September, 2006. Herself knew Chiang Mai well and looks back on it fondly. She spent three months learning traditional Thai massage there the winter before. Her memories were still fresh and her enthusiasm to show her stomping grounds was fervent. We came back to Chiang Mai in 2012 briefly on a quick visit to Thailand and again had a blast (read about those adventures-ish here), although we skipped up to Pai and then down to Koh Chang as well to give out trip some needed variety. This time we spent the entire two months in Chiang Mai.

Perhaps though we are doing the reflecting thing wrong. We came back with huge suitcases after one of those awful night time flights which give you about four hours sleep and an early morning arrival in Seoul. This would possibly be easier if we weren’t hauling around our toddler who, as is always the case in these situations, is on a much different sleep pattern to the encumbered parents. We dumped our bags on arrival, pulled a few needed things out, then shoved the suitcases into the spare room and didn’t look back at them for another month at least. I went back to work the following Monday, while Herself struggled to fall back into the routine. Yes, routine, the death song of any wild aspiration. It was cold, the air was crappy, we needed to go to Homeplus, and we really looked forward to getting out to the east coast as soon as possible. At least we had a car though.

Change

Many people use their holiday pictures to refresh their memories, and I suppose we could have done this. I can’t really, as I’ve uploaded them all to my ageing laptop which is now in my office in work. Constantly shutting down as it over-heats, I can’t even contemplate how or when I’ll get the chance to comb through the 30 or 40 gigabytes currently stored on it. I want to. I need to. In fact, we need to. It’s a classic case of information overload, taking so many pictures that you completely forget them. It’s not enough to say that I really enjoyed learning how I could use my camera, it’s time I actually pulled out all those images and did something special with them, other than plaster my flickr page with albums from markets, which is about the height of what I’ve done so far.

On my bookshelf next to my computer which I write from now there are six photographs of myself and Herself. Always these pictures look at us, and always they are smiling. There is one from our wedding party at home in Dunboyne, two from our actual wedding day, a picture from my masters graduation  (a qualification I earned with her welded tightly to my side it must be said), and three pictures from our forever memorable honeymoon in Turkey. This is how we should celebrate our events, not by posting albums and updates on the internet, but in front of the places we pass the most each day. I always try to print some photographs but rarely find a suitable place to see them. Perhaps what I should really be looking to do is not find better things to photograph, but to find more wall space, without which I might end up with no memories to really to celebrate.

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Some previously uploaded photo albums from my two months in Thailand can be found here:

Chiang Mai streets Part 1

MAYA

CMU Art Museum

Chiang Mai Sunday Market, January 5 2014

Night Bazaar, February 2014

And if you click this link you can see all my albums from Korea, Thailand, Ireland, and more…

The End of the Summer


It’s still hot in Korea. By hot I mean warm enough to prefer shorts to trousers but pleasant enough to consider the walk, wherever it is you’re going, enjoyable. Only this afternoon it started raining the kind of rain that smells of the heat that has warmed it. Like some kind of stagnant puddle water. And as it drops and hits the ground the water mixes with all the other smells walked into the street, then stewed up to create a black paste which seems to follow every foot’s step in the city. It’s a summer rain true, but not a high summer deluge.

When we returned to Korea from Ireland a little under two weeks ago we were told we had missed the worst of the summer. The breeze which we found chilly was a much welcomed breath of life into a country drained to exhaustion from the hottest of summers. We were grateful that we had chosen our flight dates well.

When I first spent a summer in Korea I can’t recall how I felt about it. I don’t remember when the heat began or ended, but I do remember staying outside long and late into the night at the weekend dressed only in shorts and t-shirt. I also remember walking into the ice cold bank to find 10 to 15 people sitting around in small groups chatting, snacking on fruit, and generally just hanging out in what was a free air-conditioned space. A few years later and I would do the same, but with a cheap ice coffee in the local Paris Baguette.

Now, that cool breeze I mentioned seems to have let up a little, but there is still a heavy rattle of cicada in the afternoon. Occasionally a dragonfly will drop to the ground dead in front of me, a sure-fire sign of the end of the summer. I still carry a handkerchief with me to avoid looking like I just stepped from the shower, but I can feel the weather getting steadily cooler.

In Ireland the summer ends in July, apparently, and autumn runs from August through to October. In many parts of the world August is an unbearable month, but Ireland it can be cool and the most unbearable thing we have are the wasps which seem to enjoy lunches in the garden as much the next person. It’s a far cry from the crowded beaches and sweltering streets of Korea, but that’s where I was a couple of weeks ago.

 

A view in Ireland

A view in Ireland

I was not thinking of the Korean summer, just of how nice it was to be in Ireland for what was a very enjoyable and warm summer by Irish standards. If anything the only reason I didn’t want to go back to Korea was because it meant the summer would be over and I would have to return to work.

It’s always easy to get all sentimental after leaving your summer holidays behind and returning to work, normality, and routine, as you sit there, wherever it is and doing whatever you have to do, looking invariably at a scene quite different than you have recently made familiar to yourself. My view from where I write is often uninspiring, faced with a computer screen backed onto a white wall, and the view through the windows leaves nothing to the imagination. The mountains in the distance even being too far off to be wistful.

An example of 'the routine'.

An example of ‘the routine’.

Coming to Korea you’d think that all would be amazing, especially from little old Ireland. But equally so, leaving Korea and going to Ireland presents such stark contrasts, not just visually, but also physically and socially. One is here and the other is there, and there is so distant from here that it bears such little comparison that highlighting the differences only serves to be counterproductive. Each country exists in such stack separation from the other that seeing the two in any light never presents any recognisable image.

I say this with a fair amount of regret, but I know that it’s true. To worry that, for example, your holiday has ended and that you must now return to the routine does little but to feed your own sentimental wishes and dreams which are likely to be realised. It serves to remember that those who can be considered fortunate enough to live where you have returned from also have the same concerns as you, none more so than complaints about the weather, bills, normality, routine, and a desire to find a better life somewhere else. I would also hasten to add that if I were fortunate enough to be so wealthy as to afford to sit around and play golf all day at such a young age I think I’d find myself bored. Perhaps when I’m old enough to retire I will be of a different mind-set.

It is safe to say that we make decisions in life about where we want to be and what we want to do. Where we choose to live and how we choose to live are important decisions. Of course not everyone is in as comfortable a position as myself to be offered a choice, I know this better than I used to, but still it’s in our power to change this, somehow.

Living in Korea, I have been frustrated by many things, but at the same time I find a lot of enjoyment in living here. I work hard enough to enjoy a lifestyle which many in Ireland do not enjoy, but we are just as happy living where we are. I have being living in Korea long enough to know what to enjoy and what to avoid. I know the limitations of my luxuries and envy those without them, which sounds odd I know, but it is nothing unusual for a person to covet what they cannot have.

A view from Korea

A view from Korea

I have never really felt myself unhappy in Korea, homesick yes, but never unhappy. There are plenty here who find fault with so many social and political issues here, but I always look at it from the perspective that every country has its problems and no one country manages to deal with them in any way more effectively, as a whole. Societies face pressures from all angles, but rounding them off they are internal and external issues which time itself and the experience it brings often help to solve most complaints. Whether we live to see some of these changes is probably what concerns us the most.

I started this post talking about the weather. I see the weather as a metaphor for how we deal with our lives in different countries from our own. I can’t say it matters much to me or anyone in Korea, unless there’s some agricultural or aeronautical connection I’m forgetting, how the weather is in Ireland right now. I’m concerned that my family and friends are doing alright of course, but I don’t think that this supersedes my own situation, which is the rain from now until some time tomorrow.

And that is what I will do. I will wait until it stops and then I will see what happens next. I wonder will the rain be light enough when I get up so that I can walk to work, or will I have to drive. I wonder if it will rain all day and what I will do in between my classes if it is still pouring down. It’s what is here and what I must deal with, regardless of what the weather is in Ireland.

Tomorrow…


Well my desk is cleared and my bags are mostly packed. As for everyone else who is travelling with me, well that’s a different story.

IMG_1100[1]

Tomorrow, myself, Herself, and +1 will board a flight from Incheon and enjoy an 18 hour cross-continental journey to Ireland. Exciting times indeed. I look forward to taking a good stab at the duty free myself.

All in all, it should be a blast.

Family Holidays.


I’ve gone on many, many family holidays, but what I remember isn’t exactly what I originally sent any postcards home about. The novelty of a family holiday is a notion that has alluded me for a long time.

I grew up the second eldest of five sons and it was what seemed to me to be a long time before I could enjoy my own holiday on my own conditions. Probably the fact that I was in that position in the family, where I seemed to spend more time on full family holidays than my other brothers may have, may have encouraged a sense of desperation I had to avoid mass family fuelled exodus when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I’m certainly more inclined to enthuse over a family holiday now, probably because I’m not a teenager anymore.

Back in the day, as all family holidays begin, the car was the transport of choice for all our communal adventures. If we were lucky we’d get to go on the boat to France, but this was certainly the exception rather than the rule. You can imagine the sense of expectation we all had as we prepared for those summer holidays down in Kerry, which was at least seven hours driving away. This trip was long before motorways, let alone well maintained rosds, and people didn’t see rules about seatbelts on in the back seat as that important. All five of us would somehow fit in the back seet, and if we were lucky one of us would manage to get the front seat.

My youngest brother, otherwise known as the baby (as he was at the time and still believes himself to be so), would wedge himself in between either my legs or my eldest brother’s legs. So there we’d sit, each of us vying for an extra inch, and somehow combining into a melee of arms and arses which was, for better or worse, comfortable. There was never a short straw, because the person who didn’t have my youngest brother between his legs was the one who had to sit behind my ould fella who had the seat pushed all the way back leaving practically no room for the person behind him. It can be such a joy to reminisce.

The last real family excursion I’ve experienced actually involved the grand arrival of the entire entourage in Korea for my wedding back in 2008. This was definitely surreal having all my brothers over scaring the locals every time they burst out laughing. Fortunately we were all grown up and knew better than to use one car for a family that included six large males, some larger than others, plus my poor little mother, not to mention Herself who was about to join these ranks, and her own family who were eager to show us around.

But it was different. Gone were the elbows in ribs and sandy arses wedged tightly together in the back seat of a Volvo. We were lucky enough to have Herself’s own ould fella’s mini-van as well as another car, although I can’t recall where that came from. This was unprecedented luxury transport of the highest order. There was even room to take a nap so as to sleep off some of the post wedding celebratory hangovers from the night before as we convoyed between destinations.

These days however, most of my family holidays are quite minor affairs, at least in terms of the number of people who travel. Myself and Herself tend to be the sum total of travellers, although the odd time my parents will be with us if we’re in Ireland, or friends who join us here and there. Unfortunately our journies have not managed to carry on that fine child hood tradition of wedging as many people into the back of the car as is likely will fit, but maybe with +1 soon to arrive, those days are soon to return. Oh. bliss.

This post is in response to Steve Miller, the QI Ranger , a top travel and activity blogger based in Korea, who asked today “What’s the most memorable trip you’ve taken with your family?”

In Kuala Lumpur


We arrived in Kuala Lumpur this morning after staying in a small airport hotel last night. Taking the airport express train, we were carried from countryside through to suburbs and then briefly through the city until we alighted at KL Sentral, the main train station of the city.

After booking train tickets on to Ipoh for tomorrow, we found a taxi which took us in the central shopping and business area of the city, Bukit Bintang. It is also where we have reserved a room in a quaint guesthouse within sight of a large hotel we had been considering before our friend recommended otherwise. As we had arrived too early to check in, we left our bags with reception and set out to take a short wander around the locale.

It wasn’t hot outside, nor was it humid. The city held itself in a cool after-rain balm which had yet to be pestered by the afternoon sun. As it was early enough in the day, the streets seemed lazy and trafficless, but we knew better as the taxi we took on the way spent some time negotiating almost perpetually red-lighted crossroads. We made our way into a large shopping mall and wandered downstairs to explore the restaurants.

It may seem like a peculiar decision to do something like this, but after living in Asia for some time I find that food halls in shopping malls actually serve a function other than feeding the working and shopping masses. As a traveller, before you dive into the street food and corner restaurants pack with locals, a food court gives a base from which to approach other eateries. Invariably mediocre but never overpriced, food courts give you an idea of the variety of food on offer and also an idea of how much you should actually be paying for a meal. I always take a moment to explore all the small restaurants and consult their picture menus, then if I’m lucky I can come to a decision and pick up the courage to order something. Once I’ve eaten, I’ve had my fill of food courts and can feel more confident approaching local cuisine from local restaurants.

After eating, we wandered around a little more but slowly we made our way towards the guesthouse where we were to stay. On return, we checked in quickly and made our way to our room where we lay in the cool of the air conditioner for a while. I stepped out and made my way down to one of the communal lounges. As I sat there reading up on Kuala Lumpur it started to rain. A prompt and straight rain that the drummed heavily and incessantly on everything, while in the background thunder sounded like heavy goods vehicles hurtling down a country road. A stiff breeze blew in the wide open windows and cooled the room where I sat, and it is still the case now.

Since then the rain has lessened and some construction workers on the streets outside have returned loudly to their tasks. There is an occasional hiss of a car passing through puddles near by, and the the tap-tap-tap of rain here and there. We will go out soon, rain or no, and finish our first day exploring the capital city of Malaysia.