Anyone keeping abreast of international news over the past few months would realise that the worst floods to strike this region for a generation have brought disruption, disaster and loss of life to large parts of Central Thailand.
Our options for land travel to, through and beyond Bangkok at this point in time remain extremely limited.
After much deliberation about whether to head to the gulf island of Ko Samui where Tue, Mia and the rest of the Danish family we met in Sabah have been chillaxing for a month, we discovered an option we hadn’t thus far considered.
A bus to Phuket and a then a direct flight from there to the old Lanna capital of Chiang Mai.
The cost was reasonable, the impact upon our outline plans manageable.
Rather than our intended route of taking in a 3-week loop of Cambodia before meeting my parents and sister in Bangkok, we are now aiming to see the best of Northern Thailand before making an overland journey southward to the Bangkok in the hope that the waters will beat a retreat before our arrival.
The unfortunate thing is we will have to sacrifice our intended river trip down the Mekong river to Luang Prabang in Laos, but fingers crossed we will be able to tag that on towards the end of our trip if we still have the time, money and inclination.
So after one night in the resort of Nai Yang (a surprisingly laid back and undeveloped strip of beach offering beach bars, shacks and bungalows just 5 minutes south of the Airport) we flew into Chiang Mai in good time for its famous Sunday night market.
The market sprawls along a main thoroughfare within the old walled city and bustles with both tourists and locals seeking out local titbits and traditional fayre.
Being a University city and former capital city, Chiang Mai is strong on its arts scene and this is reflected not only in the availability of locally produced handicrafts, but in the vast array of contemporary stalls selling original creative wares at ridiculously low prices compared to what one might pay in the west.
With our anniversary (It’s our 4th BTW) on the horizon, I quietly picked up a bracelet embellished with blue flowers as a nod to tradition and to keep up my 100% record in this department.
What I also picked up, the 0.5 was less pleased about.
You remember the wonder that was good old Woolworths’?
You know, that British town centre anachronism and vendor of hotchpotch products as diverse as pop music, “Ladybrid”childrens clothing and household cleaning products?
That very same Woolies which hadn’t changed it’s business model since World War II and therefore became a victim of the credit crunch not so long back.
Well, Woolies used to have a famed product line of sweets known as “Pick n’ Mix”.
To a kid with only a Sunday paper round and a limited amount of pocket-money as his only sources of income, a bag of “Pick n’ Mix” was hugely over-priced .
To “pick” a sugar-coated snake and “mix” it with a few giant cola-bottled and some wine gums would likely see your bag weigh in at somewhere near £1.50 give or take a few pineapple chunks.
As a result of this pricing policy, I was never an advocate of the “pick n’ mix” concept…. until Chiang Mai and the stall selling fried and roasted insect snacks.
Any potential diner would be faced with literally bucket loads of former crawling things, wriggling things, hopping things and winged flying things.
The choice was sizeable: waterbugs, grasshoppers, silk worms, crickets, beetles and bamboo worms to name but a few.
Each insect, in its own way, an appetizing appetizer to those with a penchant for gastronomic exploration.
It was a standard 20 Baht (40p) per bag for any one kind of insect, but I hadnt come all this way to be restricted to a single species of anthropod.
So with me mimicking a selection of each with a bag to mouth movement of my hand, the stallholder quickly understood and suggested that three fingers (30 Baht) would get me my “Pick n’ Mix” selection.
Perhaps if Woolies had been more flexible in their pricing, then one more high street icon would still be flourishing today?
By this point the 0.5 had walked off in disgust, so munching on a greasy waterbug which tasted remarkably like a pork scratching, I hurriedly followed after her.
By the time I’d caught up with her I’d sunk a small cricket (crunchy, but less delectable) and also scoffed a silk worm (a bigger pork scratching with a strong after taste).
With a sizeable grasshopper in hand, she swore blindly that if I came near her she would kill me.
Undettered, I bit into its crunchy thorax, taking in as I did so an entire wing and one of its spiny rear legs.
This was insecticide in its extreme, 3.5 inches of Maeng Da, a snack which I was to later discover was not meant to be eaten whole as the shell is too hard.
The shell (or more specifically what at the time I felt was more like a spiny, leg-like piece) caught in my throat and sent me into a fit of coughing as I snatched for our water bottle.
The effect was yet more harsh upon the 0.5, causing her to gag ferociously and fight hard to prevent a session of public vomiting.
I didn’t have to wait too long though.
The next morning as I tucked into my insect breakfast, she reluctantly agreed to capture the moment on camera (all be it with the proviso of her focusing on my face before closing her eyes, then, and only then, could I bring the insect towards my awaiting mouth and await her pressing the shutter release).
All went well until I showed her the frozen images.
The noise from the bathroom was almost primal.
Several deep grunts followed by breathed gasps of “Oh God, oh God”.
I guess it’s safe to say that insects won’t be on the menu for our anniversary dinner…