Once upon a time, I rode an elephant. Yes, it was so magical that I had to start the story with a fairy tale entrance. However, don't be fooled. It only sounds like a magical moment because you’re missing the story.
In Thailand I had no GPS. Look, I’m a child of the ‘90s, my mother gave up trying to teach me to read a map when TomToms came out because, among other reasons, I could never seem to manage to hold a map in the right direction.
I am utterly GPS-dependent. Unfortunately, that means that when I have my wifi and data taken away due to astronomical international charges, I become lost.
And so began the adventure to ride an elephant.
Thankfully, I had a genius solution to this problem. It was simple. I would check Google Maps and see how long it would take to reach the elephant preservation. Once I knew that, then I could set my timer when I got on the bus and get off when I had been riding it for just the right amount of time. Sounds great, huh?
None of us accounted for the quality of Thai roads. Or the fact that everyone spoke zero Thai.
There are few things that are more worrisome than being on a bus on the Laotian border and trying to figure out which rice paddy you should get off at to begin your hike to (insert unintelligible string of Thai characters). So as we sat there, we realized that maybe setting a timer to tell us when to get off the bus was not going to cut it.
That left us with option two: ask the bus driver where to get off.
This was the water taxi on the way to the bus. Go figure.
Asking directions from a bus driver is not an easy task when no one has a common language. Thankfully, the bus driver was kind because we tried to communicate through improve comedy and sign language. However, when that didn't get us very far, it occurred to me (far later than it should have) to show him the address of the place I was going. Suddenly his eyes lit up with recognition. He nodded his head vigorously to assure me that we were indeed on the right path.
Yes, I was going to ride an elephant!
After we were dropped off by the correct rice paddy it was smooth sailing. We had picked a well-known elephant preservation and the hiking trail was well marked. Needless to say, we were so excited we nearly glided up the path to meet and greet our elephant friends.
Later, while thinking about my near-mishap, I realized that I had learned several things:
- It pays to bring friends along.
- Riding an elephant is worth all the hoops you have to jump through to get there.
- A smile on your face and a good attitude goes a long way when your lost.
What are the tricks you use when you don't speak the language when you're traveling? I'd love to know your tips!