When you’re growing up on a farm, you learn some basic rules. As a kid, if I didn’t follow these basic rules, there were severe consequences. Looking back, I realize that these rules made sense if you wanted to survive as a farm kid. This winter, my husband, Bob, and I broke all the rules, but I lived to tell this memorable story.
We arrived in Thailand the week before New Year’s for a five-week trip through Southeast Asia. We both had a backpack and hotel reservations for only two nights. We made this reservation because we were spending the other days visiting textile mills near Bangkok and needed a place for the Cotton Council International staff to pick us up.
After we toured the mills, we left early the next morning on a public bus heading to Koh Chang Island in the Gulf of Thailand. We were looking forward to beach time and a Thai cooking school. It was a six-hour ride followed by a one-hour ferry to the island. After several delays, we arrived on the island right at sunset.
When we departed, instead of the ferry we were expecting, we saw a long line of taxis. To our surprise, there was also a row of pickups with benches in the back for us to ride on. This broke Rule No. 1. Never ride in the back of a pickup.
As we were riding along, I started visiting with a girl, Fia, from Sweden, because she was the only other passenger who spoke English. Fia quickly informed us that every room on the island was filled until after New Year’s because this was such a popular Thai holiday destination.
It was getting dark, and I was worried. So, she offered to help us. Rule No. 2. Never take candy from strangers. I’m sure we broke this rule when we jumped off the taxi with her to meet her friends at a local bar.
Fia’s friends showed up on mopeds, and I went with her to meet them and discuss our dilemma. Meanwhile, Bob was talking to other people to get independent confirmation on the hotel situation. The consensus was we had a major problem. I decided to take off with one of Fia’s friends on her moped to look for a room. Fia said she would tell Bob where I went. Rule No. 3. When you attend the State Fair for the first time, stick together.
We went from hotel to hotel on the moped without helmets on. (Guess what Rule No. 4 is?) Every hotel had the same story, no rooms. So, we headed back to Bob and Fia.
Thanks to Bob, by the time we returned, everyone in the bar knew the Americans’ dilemma. Since very few people spoke English, the “dilemma” had to go through several translations before the bartender volunteered a solution. He called a friend who was redoing some beach cabanas. He hung up the phone and told Fia that our “beach cabana” would be ready, and a driver was on his way to pick us up.
Our “ride” arrived as promised – two guys on motorcycles. At this point, we threw the rulebook away, grabbed our backpacks and jumped on behind. A heart-pounding 30 minutes later we arrived at our “beach cabana.”
It was rustic. The outdoor bathroom was filled with ants, and the ocean was down the road. But, it turned out OK. We had a place to sleep and a computer with WiFi. We ended up staying for three days – ants and all – until the perfect cabana became available.
We eventually had plenty of time for the beach, Thai massages under the coconut trees and a great cooking school. After a few days, we were recharged and ready to move on.
This was the first of five weeks. We went armed with maps and plans, but we also had our mental “farm rulebook.” After that night, we changed our strategy and decided to go with the flow. It turned out to be the best decision we ever made.
– RoxAnn Rooney, Wellington, Kan.