In just two weeks. This is how it happened.
During the Xmas Holidays we were sitting in the living room watching a television show called, River Monsters, which is essentially a fishing show but so much more. I’m really into fish and have kept freshwater aquariums on and off since childhood. Is there any geek hobby I haven’t tried? The answer is, no. But I digress. The host, Jeremy Wade, is a biologist and angler who travels around the world catching fascinating and fearsome freshwater fish (say that 10 times fast!). Each episode is an attempt to prove or debunk the myth of a supposedly man-eating freshwater fish. It’s a great show.
Fish ON! [Said with British accent].
While watching an episode that was filmed in Thailand, I turned to Davin and said, “Oh yeah, this reminds me that I got an email today asking me if I want to go on a garden writers press tour to Thailand. I kind of ignored it because it’s the Holidays and I’m trying to avoid thinking about work right now — I should take a second look.”
At which point I did take a second look, started to think about the possibilities, got excited about them, and sent in my pitch. Jump ahead a few months to just two weeks ago when we were given the go-ahead to purchase our air tickets to Thailand. And in another two weeks we are off!
A press tour isn’t a vacation. It’s a working trip and a professional arrangement. Attendees are expected to write stories or sell photographs to the media outlets that employ them upon return. I will be doing just that, but I will also post here as I always do when I go on a trip. This won’t be any different, although I am hoping that we will have better internet access than I did in the Caribbean so I can post while we are there.
There are lots of ways a press tour can work financially, but in this case I paid my own airfare (not cheap from Canada) and Thai Tourism is covering my accommodations and travel within the country. They also make all the decisions regarding where I go, what I see, and when I see it. I don’t expect that there will be much free time and I imagine that we will be taken to a few destinations that won’t interest me personally. Such is the tradeoff and I am happy to make that concession since I love to travel. I love it even when I hate it and can’t wait to get back home. You can pretty much dump me anywhere and I will walk away feeling like I experienced something interesting and worth seeing. Like most people, I have compiled a mental list of places in the world that I most want to visit (Vietnam is my current #1 and it’s just next door to Thailand. Gah!), but turn my attention to a place that isn’t on my list and within five minutes I’ll have convinced myself that I must go there, too. Immediately, if possible.
I want to go everywhere.
As for Thailand, I have a few ideas about what I hope to see, experience, and write about, but we do not yet have an itinerary, so making plans or pitches is pretty much impossible at this time.
Fortunately, we do know which cities we will be visiting: Bangkok, Pattaya, Rayong and Chiang Mai. I am most excited about Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Of the cities on the list, they are the ones I would be most likely to visit if I were going on my own and choosing my own destinations. I love markets — many of my fondest travel memories are of markets. I love the hustle and bustle, the piles of colourful items, and the smells. Whether I’m shopping for takeaway food, produce, or household items, I prefer the loose and messy market experience to “proper” stores and malls. Oddly enough, they are the places I rarely photograph on trips. Looking back on all of the places I have been, I recently realized that in many cases I don’t have a single photo of the markets. I need to change that.
In Thailand, I hope to visit as many markets as possible and taste as many fruits as I can stand to eat. Here in Toronto we have an excellent Chinatown where you can find any tropical Asian fruit you can think of. I’ve tried them all, still, I know there are many out there that never make it here for one reason or another. I hope to find some of those more elusive fruits. I also plan to revisit many that I have not tasted in a tropical country as I know they will be much sweeter and more delicious ripe off of the tree. Mangosteens are coming into season in April and they are number one on my list. I love mangosteens but imagine they will be that much better in Thailand.
If you have been to Thailand or more specifically, any of the cities mentioned, I would love to hear about your experiences. What did you eat? Where did you eat? Which plants, gardens, and temples did you see? What blew your mind?