Should We Stay or Should We Go Now?

dsc_0858Three years ago I arrived in Korea and almost immediately began researching other Asian countries that I wanted to visit while I was here. It was during this time that I came  across a spectacular festival in Chiang Mai Thailand. Every November there is a mass sky lantern release held on the outskirts of the city and it looked amazing. Photos of the event frequently pop up on Top Ten and Bucket List types of pages. The ceremony is held to honor Buddha, to release bad luck, and to wish for good luck in the future. Not only that but it totally reminds me of the stunning scene from Tangled where Repunzel and Flynn Ryder are falling in love in the midst of a sky lantern festival. I think I know where Disney got their idea from. The photos online are so beautiful I decided that I simply had to go. I’d just missed it for that year so began planning for the next. The next year came around and I purchased tickets as soon as they began selling them.  However, due to a missed email from the ticket company that went to my junk mail telling me I had 24 hours to provide them with my passport number for insurance purposes, my tickets were sold out from under me and the event sold out before I’d even realized what had happened. My money was returned to me, but I couldn’t get tickets. I cancelled my trip and decided that I’d try again the next year, this year 2016. This was going to be my last chance and this time I’d be ready! I asked any girlfriends if they’d like to join me and I had three brave/fun friends that said yes, let’s do this. Tickets went on sale in March and I jumped on them. I made sure to provide our passport numbers and this time things went without a hitch. We ordered our tickets through Pitchiangmai.com. We had lantern festival tickets. I scoured booking.com for hotels and finally settled on the Grand Napat. We bought Korean Air tickets direct from Incheon to Chiang Mai. We had a Korean friend purchase the tickets for us from a Korean site called Hana Tour (similar to Expedia) which was about $100 cheaper than any of the sites we were searching. The tickets were non-refundable but we didn’t care, we were all set, and nothing was going to stop us from going on this trip. Then August rolled around and there were several bombings in the South of Thailand. Tourist towns were targeted and my group and I became a little nervous. The festival we were planning on going to has a huge international draw, we were concerned. We also had non refundable tickets, what to do what to do. We decided to sit back, wait, and watch to see if anything else happened. In all the research I’d done about Chiang Mai previously I’d only read glorious reports. The people are so warm and lovely, Chiang Mai is the “Rose of the North”, it’s very safe, and so on. Much of my info had come from travel books and happy bloggers. After the bombings I started reading about travel warnings and realized that Thailand was a little less stable than I’d realized. I also read pages warning of motorcycle riding bag snatchers and tuk tuk drivers that would try to scam you at every turn. The more I read the more worried I became. I was looking for a fun and exciting girls trip where we could explore an exotic culture, but certainly didn’t want to go to a place where I felt I’d have to constantly be looking over my shoulder and clutching my bag. I began to seriously wonder what I’d gotten myself and my three friends into. I talked with my husband at length about it and he reassured me that it was going to be just fine, we should go. I kept researching just to make sure that I had all the up to date info. I came across a travel page on Trip advisor I believe, and it basically said you know bad things can happen anywhere, sure you could get mugged in Thailand, but you could also get shot in the States, and that actually resonated with me. It’s always interesting to hear others opinions about your home. Here I am worried about going to Thailand and these other people were worried about going to America. So I settled down, checked in with my friends, we were all feeling okay, yes we were still going. Then on October 13th, Thailand’s King of 70 years, passed away. Oh my gosh, what was going to happen now? Would the entire country destabilize? We just didn’t know. Again we decided we’d just watch carefully and see how events progressed. The days passed, Thai’s were in mourning for their King, but nothing crazy seemed to be going on. November 12th came and it was time for us to board our flight.  I am happy to report that we all boarded that plane and went to Thailand! The people in Chiang Mai were warm and lovely people, there wasn’t any bag snatching, or tuk tuk’s dropping us off at gem scam places. On our last night while we were at the Loi Krathong parade we did see a large group of youths that we felt very possibly could be in a gang of some sort, but they didn’t bother us, and we simply moved away from that area. It’s always good to be aware, but we all felt safe and happy. If it hadn’t been for the non refundable money I’d already invested in this trip, I may very well have let fear cause me to miss out. I’m so glad that didn’t happen, it was the trip of a lifetime! I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

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