Not Going Anywhere

My Impulsive Trip That Didn’t Happen


Thailand celebrates about 25 official national holidays, and many more when you realize that most people add a couple of days on to the front and back of each of those. For example, Songkran is officially only three days long, but some communities take ten days to celebrate it.


I had planned to make a quick getaway to Nan, a town up near the Lao border, about three hundred miles from my home in Chaing Mai. Buses here are cheap and plentiful, and there was one scheduled to leave every three hours. Since I can’t speak Thai, I didn’t call the bus station, for no one would have been able to understand me.


My plan was to take an all-night bus, spending the eight hours sleeping, arriving in Nan for breakfast. Thailand, however, had other plans. They were celebrating the Queen’s birthday, and since the Queen is the mother of the nation, her birthday is also Mother’s Day. So even though I planned to leave on a Wednesday night, all the buses were full through Friday. Everyone who could get away, and there are a lot of them, was going home to visit Mom.


Of course, I didn’t know or couldn’t be told any of this. I stood in the rain waiting for a cab to take me to the bus station. It was dark, the rain was falling harder every minute. Finally one showed up. He wanted seven times the normal fare, but after pathetically trying to bargain from a position of weakness, I assented.


At the bus station, I learned that the last bus of the day was totally full. Maybe tomorrow. Even after three months of Thai lessons, I speak less Thai than most Thais who work with the general public speak English. Most of them can say, “All full,” “Finished,” “Maybe later.” So I got a hotel room near the bus station, a new, clean place that only cost fifteen dollars, and slept until dawn. I then returned to the ticket counter and found that all the buses for today were also sold out.


Thais who have state jobs, or work for banks, schools or corporations, enjoy more days off than probably anywhere else on Earth. They also don’t get paid much, so I guess it evens out. 


So now I’m back home, and actually happy to be here. This trip just wasn’t meant to be. That’s OK. Nobody knew I was coming, anyway.


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