Dave's Sketch Journal

Drawing is taking a line for a walk. - Paul Klee

Package Tour

Elephant Snack
Snack Time - sugar cane sticks
I am embarrassed to admit this, and I normally wouldn’t do it in a public blog but I feel compelled to warn you. And before I tell you what there is to be so embarrassed about, I have to tell you that in all our foreign travels we have never, ever done this. Never.

But this time we succumbed and . . . are you ready for this?  We booked an all-day package tour.

It’s so humiliating I know. I hate to even admit to it. We take great pride in avoiding the camera wielding busses of sunburned tourists in tank tops and way-too-much-skin-showing shorty shorts.

HutThe tour guides of these mass tours cart you around like cattle, chained to one another, and dump you off in trinket shops of overpriced “hand crafted” stuff. You wander around zombie-like stuffing shinny things into your pockets, buying things produced and replicated in every trinket shop across the country.

Not us. No way. We ain’t doing that!

But yesterday we gave in, we folded under the heavy pressure of sameness and joined a clan of eleven foreign tourists.

And you know, it wasn’t all that bad. The free lunch was bland, the requests for tips was endless, and the sights were definitely “touristy” but other than that the pain wasn’t that severe. We made it through the day.

Long Necks Village
We did meet a rather interesting crowd of tourists in our van. Some from China, others from America, one from Australia. What was most interesting to me was that even though we asked lots of questions of all of them, no one asked us any questions in return. In fact, after asking a simple question like: “Where are you from?” They simply gave us a one word answer and went back to eating their lunch. Come on people! Interface! Talk! What’s wrong with you? Why would you travel the world and not even get to know the folks sitting right across from you at lunch?

Our tour guide was wonderful. She was personable and funny, and spoke great English. I bailed on the rafting ride after she didn’t directly answer Ruth’s question: “Have the guys ever tipped over a raft?” Her indirect answer was: “I can hold your camera for you.”

Room in Chiang Mai Hotel
Vieng Mantra Hotel - Chiang Mai
We saw elephants, oxen, and long-necked people but alas, no lions, tigers, or bears. The elephants, up close and personal, were friendly and seemed to take a liking to Ruth. One rocked back and forth as she stroked his forehead and touched his trunk of sandpaper and wire hair. I love their big brown eyes and long eyelashes. They "look right into your soul" said our tour guide.  I think she means they seem to sense your mood, like a loyal dog. The trainer had gone back into his hut so I asked Ruth to back away a bit.  I always visualize the worst and imagined the elephant's trunk wrap around her and put her down his cavernous gullet in one large gulp.  I'd hate losing my travel partner.

There was one interesting woman from Australia who has traveled the world several times . . . alone. Yep, that’s right. All by herself. She makes all her arrangements via the Net, package tours and all, and then proceeds to enjoy them, all by herself. Initially, she didn’t really say much to us. Eventually, she warmed up . . . a little. Then she talked about herself.

When the van came to pick us up in the morning and the door slid open, everyone just sort of stared at us. No warm greeting. No welcome. Not even a ‘hello’ from the dark interior. It didn’t start out well and and really didn’t get much better either.

Yeah, I’m embarrassed to say we succumbed to a package tour.

I’m going back to traveling alone with Ruth. She’s the best partner and we see and do so much more.

Do I look like a people person?

2 Responses to “Package Tour”

  1. # Blogger maryhruth

    That's okay, Dave, maybe even a point of pride. I completely sympathize with your frustration with people's general un-responsiveness. It's disgraceful. Don't let it get you down. They are the sad losers, not you.  

  2. # Blogger daveterry

    Yeah. Well, we enjoyed ourselves anyway!

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