Throwing a Tantrum in Chiang Mai

A few nights ago I went down to the Chiang Mai gate since I’d heard good things about the street food, and I’d been sitting in a café working all day. After stuffing my face I decided to grab a sorgtaaou which is a shared taxi.

Basically it’s almost like a pickup truck except the back of it’s enclosed and there are bench seats on either side. They’re cheaper than  tuk tuks, and they have routes that they drive through the city-you just have to flag one down and see if it’s going your way.

A sorgtaaou pulled up and the woman in the passenger seat waved me over. Her husband was the driver, and he looked about seventy. They spoke absolutely no English which was fine because I’d been given a map with my hostel circled on it, so all I needed to do was point and look at them questioningly.

“Ahh” they both looked at the map and nodded their heads at me.

“Are you sure?” I asked suspiciously.

Thai people don’t like to disagree with you, so often they’ll say they know where something is, or pretend to understand you when they have no idea. I found this frustrating until I talked to some of my friends who work with Thai’s in Bangkok. I have it easy in comparison.

These guys were adamant that they knew where to take me. He gestured for me to get in, and when I asked how much I needed to pay he just grunted and waved his hand at me. Obviously we’d cross that bridge when we came to it.




I jumped in the back, and soon we were pulling up in a part of town that I had never seen before. It definitely wasn’t the old city which was where I needed to be. He gestured for me to get out and I shook my head. Not even close.

We then drove around for the next twenty minutes. At one stage we were going towards the airport, and even I knew that was wrong. He pulled over to ask directions three times, and each time I waved my map at strangers, pointing desperately and wishing I could say more than Hello in Thai.

At first it was fine. I hadn’t had a good look at the city yet, so it was interesting to drive through different parts of town. After a while it got old though, especially when I began seeing things for the second time.

I was using Google maps on my phone, but it was being a bitch and not working properly. Nevertheless, I repeatedly stuck my head out the side window to yell directions at the driver, who had no fucking idea where we were going.

At this stage I noticed that people around us were beeping and passing us, and he was driving in two lanes-very slowly if the people racing past were any indication. The next time we pulled over I got out and showed him my phone. As I walked up to the window his wife poured something into a cup and handed it to him. It definitely wasn’t coffee.

Eventually we pulled into an alley. The driver asked directions from someone who worked in a hotel, and he gestured for me to go inside and talk to someone there. I figured I was screwed at this point, handed the driver 50 baht (yup I’m a sucker) and followed the man into the hotel. The driver left, taking with him the map that had my hostel circled on it.


The manager at the hotel had no idea where I needed to go, and I realized that I no longer had my map. I typed the address into Google one more time, and it told me the hostel was a twenty-minute walk away. I left the alley, reached the main street and promptly burst into tears.

Yes it was an overreaction. My only excuse is that I hadn’t had any sleep for a few nights and I couldn’t trust that Google would send me in the right direction. I mean if you can’t trust Google who can you trust?

So I walked around for a while, sobbing like a little girl (I am not a pretty crier), and feeling mortified that I was crying in the first place.

In over two months of travel I’ve never had a breakdown. I’ve dealt with dodgy taxi drivers, losing my belongings, food poisoning, bed bugs, crappy hostel beds, rude roommates, and culture shock. I’ve witnessed extreme poverty, the disgusting sex tourism in Asia, and children forced to sell bracelets instead of being allowed to go to school.

Maybe I was crying for all the times I get lost and feel like an idiot.

Maybe it was the knowledge that most people my age can at least find their way to where they’re staying after a few days.

Maybe it was because I felt like a crappy traveler, who was failing at traveling alone because I was so dependent on everyone else to give me directions all the time.

Maybe I was just tired and hormonal. Take your pick.

Traveling Solo
Wise words…


While having a major meltdown was embarrassing, sometimes it just happens. Obviously I never thought I’d be throwing a tantrum in Chiang Mai but traveling solo is challenging. For me the most challenging part will always be finding my way around since I have the world’s shittiest sense of direction.

When you’re traveling alone there’s no one to give you advice or help with decisions, and when a challenge arises it’s up to you to sort it out. No one was going to walk up to me and offer me a hug and some chocolate.

So I pulled myself together, found some tourists and asked for directions. I eventually found my hostel, and on the bright side I now know my way around that part of Chiang Mai!


10 comments on “Throwing a Tantrum in Chiang Mai

  1. Meagan | November 3, 2013 @ 11:12 pm

    That sounds really frustrating. I had a breakdown over something much smaller while living in Korea. I had just moved to a new city and I didn’t know where anything was. I went to the small post office near my apartment and they refused to take my package and insisted I go to another post office. I went where I thought they were telling me to go only to find out it wasn’t there. I just sat down on a bench and cried some silent tears of self pity.

    At least the tough moments give us good stories to tell, but I’m sorry you had to go through the trouble.
    Meagan | recently posted..Flying EVA Air With Hello Kitty

    • Stacey November 3, 2013 @ 11:32 pm

      It’s funny how it’s always the simple things (trying to order food, post some mail or get home) that end up being big dramas! I need to get some post sent to me here and I’m already dreading trying to work out my address and the postal system.

      Thanks for the comment Meagan :)
      Stacey recently posted..Throwing a Tantrum in Chiang Mai

  2. Karisa November 4, 2013 @ 1:07 am

    OMG I have been there! Nothing makes me feel more powerless than being lost and unable to communicate.
    Karisa recently posted..Travel Advice from Fearless Females #1

    • Stacey November 4, 2013 @ 1:18 am

      That sums it up nicely Karisa!

  3. Dyanne@TravelnLass November 7, 2013 @ 4:52 am

    Don’t feel bad Stace – at least you didn’t bang on the songthaew window and piss the driver off (like uh, someone we both know)! 😉
    Dyanne@TravelnLass recently posted..How To Piss Off a Thai Consul

  4. Sally December 15, 2013 @ 8:07 pm

    SO frustrating! Getting lost and not being able to get directions always presses my stressed-out button too. I’ve definitely had an ugly cry or two because I couldn’t figure out where I was going. You’re not alone (even though you’re alone)! :)
    Sally recently posted..Photoessay: Udo, Jeju’s Cow Island

    • Stacey December 15, 2013 @ 9:02 pm

      Hi Sally! It was definitely a stressful experience although it’s not the first, and I’m sure it won’t be the last time I end up lost! Thanks for the kind words, it’s helpful to know that plenty of other solo travelers have the same problems!

  5. Lea January 1, 2017 @ 9:48 pm

    Gal, I love you! I”m reading this whole blog and so many times I cried because I know these feelings! I also decided to explore on my own and currently stuck in China with that story how not to find an english teaching job! I hope to go southern and your experience will be so helpful! Thank you, wish u the best luck!

    • Stacey January 9, 2017 @ 8:40 am

      hey Lea! I’m so glad you can relate hahaha. It can be soooo tough living and travelling overseas, but what doesn’t kill you amiright??

      Good luck with your travels! Are you in China right now?
      Stacey recently posted..That Time I Broke my Arm in Guatemala

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