I must confess…I’m addicted to organizing and planning. There, I said it! Now I need to organize a few words around it. As a loyal, addicted organizer I’ll start with making a key word list of items I’d like to write about. Let’s start with describing how organized I am (or not!).
I wish it would apply to anything I could or should organize, but unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. Yes, my clothes closet is somewhat structured (by color). Same with my books, they are catalogued by the color of the cover. Yet, my kitchen drawers are a mess, same with most of my desk drawers, and I have a few piles of paperwork and knick knacks. Some things are just hard to keep organized I guess…
Although they have a different meaning, planning and organizing are two concepts that complement each other. Actually, I think you cannot have one without the other. I wonder why some people (including myself) love organizing and planning, for example, this artist named Ursus Wehrli who takes it to the extreme—with beautiful results I think—adding a new dimension to the meaning of the different parts that make an object or scene. Organization gives meaning to the experience and improves it at the same time. For me, planning and organizing is not only fun to do, it also removes stress, I worry less because I did my homework. I feel I have a little more control over the chaos called life.
Making a list and checking it twice
When it comes to planning and knowledge, you guessed it, I LOVE lists and tables. “Making a list checking it twice”, is my mantra. Shopping lists, to-do lists, itineraries, tracking costs lists, wish list, logs, references (for example, metric conversion)…are there any other lists? Please let me know!
My favorite thing to organize and plan? Travel! There’s so much to figure out and put on lists for a vacation, I usually start months in advance. I just started the organization of a month long trip to Thailand next year, my earliest planning ever, 12 months in advance!
Unfortunately I can’t check flights at the moment, because they are not available yet. However, I was able to figure out which airlines have the best departure and arrival times. I also calculated the average price per mile, and found out that Tuesday is the best day to book an International flight. The cheapest flight days are Tuesday-Thursday. How’s that for a start? Research is a major part of planning, and one of my favorite aspects of organizing anything.
The next best thing: finding places to visit and what to do at the selected destination. No, I don’t get this down to the hour, like an organized group travel package would force upon you. Instead, I just make a wish list of possible fun things to do. Thailand is a huge country with a very diverse landscape. I’ve visited 3 times and just covered a few small areas. The often humid and hot tropical climate does not contribute to actively hopping around from one place to the other.
The first time I got off the plane in Bangkok and left the air-conditioned terminal, a wet, warm blanket wrapped itself around me and I immediately had to cut my pace and our itinerary in half. This time I really want to take my time and not travel too much within the country. I selected three places to visit: the big city of Bangkok, a small town Ayutthaya, and a small island near Bangkok.
Next: a trip to the bookstore and library. One good (Lonely Planet) guide I purchase and the rest I get at the library. The first three times I went to Thailand with friends, this time I travel with my 12 year (will be 13) old daughter, which means I have to look for some teenage activities as well.
We’ll have about 28 days, some shortened by travel. I roughly estimate the time we need for each of the three places, with the beach taking at least two weeks for some extreme unwinding. Tripadvisor is one of my favorite travel websites, not only can I see the trips and tips of my (facebook) friends, I can also find customer ratings and reviews, including pictures.
What to do where? Tripadvisior will show you a huge list and I love the fact I can ask people who just recently visited the place I plan to visit, how it was, how the weather was, how much they paid, etc. We are traveling during the rainy season, so it’s good to know where and when the season starts and flows (it starts in the North of Thailand and moves down, reaching the South near October.
Through Tripadvisor I found a perfect beach (how perfect it actually is I’ll describe in my future Tripadvisor review). It ticks off all the “would like to haves” from my list: Small beach, just a few resorts, no sunbeds and parasols, quiet and peaceful. For the two cities I selected, I gathered information about both lodging and activities. On the beach my accommodation can be pretty simple, since we’ll be on the beach or in the water most of the time. A simple hut/bungalow (comes close to camping) with a fan will suffice.
For both Bangkok and Ayutthaya I selected small hotels with a pool. After lots of walking and biking (in Ayutthaya biking around is a great way to go sightseeing) in the tropical heat, it’s nice to cool down in a pool at the end of the day.
What to bring? Part of my early planning is spreading the budget. There are a lot of things we need before departure, like backpacks and good shoes, waterproof bags, quick drying compact towels, solar lights etc. Buying things now, or when they are on sale will not only save us money, but also take things off the packing list, avoiding last-minute shopping trips and stress. I have a “before-departure” packing list and a “shopping-upon-arrival” list (because I carry my backback with me, I need to keep it light, and many things are much cheaper in Thailand).
Touts, Tuk-Tuk’s & Gems Scams
The other day I read a story from a dad who traveled with his family to Thailand for the first time. In front of their Bangkok hotel the jet lagged family got immediately lured into one of the most described scams in Thailand, the tuk-tuk tour. I felt sorry for them, but I also think it’s extremely stupid to visit a new country and culture without informing yourself properly.
Do as the Romans do
But what if you don’t know what Romans do? You have to find out! Do your homework! Read, ask! It just makes your life so much easier and your travel so much more enjoyable. For the Thai a smile is very important, so perhaps you should practice replacing that serious frown with a happy expression. They love having fun also called “sanuk”. When asked you can respond with “sanuk mak” (it’s lots of fun). Learning a few basic words and sentences, is always appreciated! Here are a few more tips you can easily find in most travel guides: don’t point your feet at people or things, don’t touch their head, don’t raise your voice (Thai are usually mild-mannered and soft-spoken). Do dress properly when entering a temple, say “thank you” and most important of all: do smile a lot!
It looks like my Thai trip is coming along nicely, I have to return to that unorganized red bag now, it is bugging me!
To be continued…