Every single pair of pants that I’ve ever bought in Asia, the stitching has gone in between the legs. Gone at the crutch as my Grandma would have said. Every. Single. Pair. Either somebody is playing a cruel joke on me here, or my bum cheeks are gradually inflating by the day.
The only positive to this Thai haberdashery error is that there’s always a gentle cool breeze wafting through my knickers. To calm me down. An onsite fan to cool the hot flushes that accompany a woman of my age who is prone to bouts of frantic rage.
Welcome to the Travel Bog Diaries.
Brian announces that we are to rent some bikes and go to explore the city of Chiang Mai.
Chaing Mai is supposedly cooler than Bangkok but my built in sweat thermometer is telling me differently. Either that or Tessa’s Dove stick deodorant – the one that she hides in her sleeping bag because she doesn’t want me to use it, is out of date.
It’s too hot to wear a bra in Thailand.
Still, I don’t think its a good idea for me to go for a bike ride braless.
What if I accidentally pinched my dangling nipple while pulling on the brakes.
Too risky. Too painful.
That’s all I need, me, swerving into the oncoming traffic. Laying hobbled on the road. My poor children having to come and identify me. Tessa, having to admit that yes, that is indeed my mother. And Oh. My. God. How embarrassing. She is clutching her nipple.
I could imagine the telegram to my mother back home in New Zealand.
‘Dear Mother’ it would say,
‘Your daughter tried to ride a push bike in Thailand. Without a bra. As a result, she is now squashed, squidged in a hospital somewhere in the jungle. We regret to inform you that she will not be returning home to New Zealand to collect her dog in November, so you’d better start saving up because those wheat free dog biscuits aren’t bloody cheap.
Yours Thailandy, The Thai Police.’
After running through this scenario, I decided to wear my black sports bra. The one that hasn’t been washed since India and so smells of, well, India. No matter. I conclude that it makes me look sporty at least. Sporty and young – it has crossed over straps at the back, and all the teenagers wear those sort.
We set off on our bike ride in Chiang Mai. I say we set off. They set off, speeding fast. Leaving me to try and work out the gears and get to grips with a bike that was one model up from a Penny Farthing.
All the other young tourist couples weaving in and out of the Thai traffic, joyfully and youthfully. Laughing, laughing, laughing. Not a care in the world it seemed. Enjoying the free and easy life with the aid of two wheels.
Me. Wobbling along on the bike. Barely managing to keep the handlebars straight because the basket on the front has been put on wonky and it’s making me lose all sense of balance.
Me. like something out of Noddy and Big Ears. Trying my best to keep from going in the gutter. Blowing my cheeks out, shaking my head profusely and muttering like a mad woman at every passing car that comes within two meters of me.
Tailing behind my family, but not so far away from Sonny that I cant bark insulting commands at him.
I see him, my 16-year-old son, cruising along with one hand on the handlebar and the other on his lap. All Relaxed. Looking like a dude. Making it look easy. Not even waiting for me or checking over his shoulder to see if I’ve been knocked off and am laying in the road spattered with pad thai and blood.
I feel my insecurity starting to rise and decide that now would be an excellent time to screech at my innocent, unknowing son.
People don’t shout in Thailand. It’s not like India where everyone sounds as though they’re having a domestic when they are just asking for a cup of chai. Thai people are calm. Beautiful and peaceful and serene. Like I wish I was.Thai people don’t throw their arms in the air and poke their finger at their children while they’re riding their bike.
They certainly don’t screech “Pull over! NOW!’ In a scary middle-aged hag sort of way. No. They don’t do that.
But I do.
“I’ll tell you what boy” I yell from behind him, suddenly filling the quiet little streets of Chiang May with the voice that resembles a northern fisherwoman.
“You shouldn’t be on that bloody bike!” bellowing now, “Instead of trying to look like a cool dude (really Liz? Who says ‘dude?’) Cycling along with one hand, why don’t you use some hand signals to tell me where you’re bloody well going? You won’t look so bloody cool when you’re laying splattered in a hospital bed will you?”
No Liz. I don’t suppose he would.
That nailed it.
Parenting school 101.
Sonny answers with his newly adopted teenage answer. The one that infuriates me more than anything in the whole world. The one that’s even worse than “whatever’. The one that makes me look like Violet out of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when she explodes with blueberries.
“Finished?” He cooly shouts back over his shoulder. One eyebrow raised. Cocky little sod. He puts the guilty hand on the handlebar. With just one finger.
I decided that when we get back to New Zealand, I’m never going to let him take his driving test. Not until he’s learned how to ride a bike safely around the supermarket carpark. And taken his cycling proficiency test and been awarded his ‘I’m a super-duper cyclist’ smart road sticker. Then, maybe, I’ll consider letting him take his test.
I decided to turn my frustrations onto Brian instead.
He’s getting on my nerves the way he’s riding his bike with such ease.
When he comes to a crossing, he lifts one leg over the saddle and keeps the other foot on the side peddle, freewheeling across like a real-life cyclist.
Cycling right up front as always. Why does he always have to be at the front? Why does he always have to be the leader?
I want to scream, ‘You’re not the boss of the roads you know!’ but I decided that this might make me sound like a maniac, so instead, I catch him up and huff like a spoiled brat:
“Why don’t we stop and push our bikes along this bit? Sonny and Tessa are probably getting tired now”.
‘Oh Daddy no!’ Squeals my daughter Tessa who is more competent on a bike than I care to admit I knew about.
‘Let’s keep going! This is f-u-n!”
I wasn’t in the mood for anything involving the word ‘fun’. I tried again to ruin everything and dampen everyone’s spirits:
‘No, no. I think we should head back now. We haven’t got any lights, and I don’t want us getting lost’.
What a boring old bag.
They all ignored me and whizzed past. I could hear them discussing the new Star Wars film together. I think I heard Tessa say ‘Don’t bother telling Mummy. She hates Star Wars’.
I put some effort into my peddling and tried hard to keep up.
At the corner of the junction, we came upon the park. Chiang Mai Park. My family spotted it and were all enthused.
Tessa: “Oohh, Let’s go in and have a look at this park! There are people doing loads of exercises and stuff!”
They ignored my protests that we probably wouldn’t be allowed to take push bikes to a park in Thailand and that we would all get arrested and end up in the Bangkok Hilton Jail. Instead, they sped on through the gates leaving me to struggling to put my rusty bike stand back up.
It was a beautiful night I’ll admit. The park is gorgeous. A cool piece of tranquillity in the city of Chiang Mai. It is filled with a lake and lots of people exercising in an orderly, calm and non-sweaty fashion. If you’re in Chiang Mai, go.
I got off the bike and decided that actually, this might be just what I needed. A break from the torturous contraption that was the guest house transport. A little chance to claw back some credibility after being the one left behind for the entirety of the bike ride.
I’d show them that I could use the work out machines dotted along the park. I might even join in with the free aerobic session that was being held over the way if I chose to. I did have my sports bra on after all.
I strode over to Tessa who was trying to work out how to use the inner thigh machine.
I pushed past her a little too violently and took my place. Feeling on top of my game. I’ve been to more gyms than I’ve had hot dinners. Look and learn kid, I wanted to say. Daddy might be able to ride a bike like Lance Armstrong, but your mother will be able to show you how to work your inner thighs like Jamie Lee Curtis.
I started to manoeuvre myself into the shiny orange machine. Spotlessly clean like everything in Thailand.
“Oh, Mummy. Careful”
She looked on in horror as I tried to wrap the beasts that are my thighs around the machine. But after a bit of careful manoeuvering, they were in place.
‘Don’t worry Tess; I’ve been doing this machine since the 1980s. All you do now is gently s-q-u-e-e-z-e (nothing. Not a thing) your knees against the machine and s-l-o-w-l-y (sod all happening) bring your thighs together.’
Waiting for something to happen. Hoping that her Mother would at least be able to get off the thing with dignity and that nobody was watching. I strained to bring my legs together.
Nothing. Didn’t move an inch.
Me, pinned on the orange machine with my legs bent outwards at a 90-degree angle like a frog. Unable to move. Stuck. Blowing out of my mouth like a human spacehopper in the hope that the machine would budge and release me from this hideous undignified position.
“Its broken” I wheezed.
Starting to panic now. Suddenly feeling as though I had a thousand nits running through my head and they all needed scratching at the same time.
Tessa with her hands on her lovely hips sporting her denim shorts. Head cocked.
‘I don’t think it is Mummy’ she says, absentmindedly, checking her longest nail out, ”I’ve just seen that lady over there, and she was using it.”
Oh God. Luckily Brian is showing Sonny something on his phone, and both their backs are turned. Probably discussing how beautiful Carrie Fisher looks in the new Star Wars film.
I try to remain calm. As calm as a woman with her legs jammed open on a machine in the middle of a public park in Thailand can remain.
“It’s bloody well broken, Tessa.” I splutter. Viens bulging in my neck. Flapping. Resembling a pigeon on it’s back.
An old man walked past and smiled his gentle, Thai smile. I smiled back and blew my fringe out of my eyes as if to say ‘Just having a rest between sets’. I tried once more to lift my tree trunks out of their constraint.
Well and truly, stuck.
“Help me, Tessa.’ Prickly, embarrassed tears were now threatening to run down my face and give the snot a shout to join them “Get me off. Now! Hurry up”
Tessa starts to laugh. I began to panic.
Tessa gets her phone out. I start to boil.
One’s thinking snapchat story. The other is thinking Juvenile Reform Centre. My daughter stops and lowers the phone.
“Ewww… Gr-o-s-s!” She giggles, turning her head away and covering her eyes in the coy way that only an embarrassed thirteen-year-old girl can do. I remind myself that I will be lobbying for the return of snacking when I return home to New Zealand.
“There’s a massive rip in your pants, and your knickers are all sticking out and showing. Ewww… Embarrassing”
You’re alright Liz. You’re okay. Just breathe. They’re clean at least.
I remind myself of my latest meditation technique. That when a moment like this arises, we must see it as a chance to be thankful.
Go for it, Liz. You can do it. Breathe.
I am thankful that I’m stuck on this machine and therefore cannot be done for child abuse.
I’m thankful that Brian is still glued to his phone – fantasising over a young Carrie Fisher.
I’m thankful that there isn’t some Thai beauty waiting to use the machine that I’m on.
I’m thankful for the cool breeze blowing through my knickers.