Joined: 07 Mar 2005
|Posted: Feb 09, 2008 2:11 am Post subject: GPSr adventures in Thailand
|This email arrived recently from my geocaching niece Curiouser and Curiouser. She is travelling the world for the next 4 months and documenting her adventures. This one is interesting in particular for those of us who love our GPSrs.
IMPORTANT AND NECESSARY INFORMATION BEFORE READING THE STORY
A GPS is global positioning system, which utilizes satellites to basically map out where you are at all times. In my family we like to use this handy device to play a game known as "geocaching". Google it if you don't know what that is. During my trip I have mostly used it to store the coordinates of the hotels I am staying at or where I park my motorbike. It then tells you how far away you are and in what direction to head. (This is one of many uses, but I won't go into all that now). It looks a little bit like a fat cell phone, if you don't look closely.
After four days of tearing around Chiang Mai, Thailand on motorbike without hitting anyone or being hit (and may I remind you they drive on the wrong side of the road here), one tends to very quickly build up what many writers like to call "hubris" - incidentally one of the major character flaws in many protagonists throughout the ages.
When I say "one tends to", I am referring more specifically to myself.
Yes, I've been roaring around this foreign city, able to speak only two phrases in Thai (and badly, at that), with only a rudimentary sense of direction - but in between maps and waypoints marked in my trusty GPS, I've done swimmingly. Indeed, as I was biking back to a friends house, GPS sitting jauntily in the front basket on top of a plastic bag containing some rather well-chosen silk pants, I was thinking the following thoughts precisely: "Give me one more week here and I will OWN this town" - referring to how well I had done exploring North, West, East, and a dash of the South of Chiang Mai that day. Sure, I had never driven back at night, but with a few quick glances at my GPS to steer me in the right general direction and confirm my instincts, I'd be fine.
You may have heard the expression "pride goes before a fall", and if you haven't, either English isn't your first language, or you've been living in the wilds of Canada somewhere with no access to television or books and no human contact whatsoever, in which case you wouldn't be reading this.
I know what you're thinking - and no, I didn't fall off of the bike. Not I. I was happily zooming through traffic, weaving deftly between cars, and listening to the plastic rustly sounds of my bagged purchase billowing in the wind. I knew it wouldn't fly away, though, because it was weighed down by my water bottle Siggsmund AND my GPS.
Never underestimate the power of wind in a plastic bag.
Clang, thunk, went a sound to my immediate left. What could possibly have fallen off my bike? I wasn't holding anything, nothing was in my pockets. I looked in the basket. My GPS was not there. This did not at first compute. Logic circuits turned on and began whirring and informed me that the only logical explanation of the mysterious sound plus mysterious disappearance of my GPS could only mean one thing: my GPS had bit the dust. At first I thought, "oh rot what a way to end a nice day" (believing I'd return empty handed and that was that). My next thought . . . "wait . . . wait . . . there is hope, I can turn around and get it!"
It being divided highway, and a RING ROAD much like the perimeter at home, complicated things, but after all, I OWNED this road now. I turned to the right, blasting down the highway, made a casual but elegant U-turn some time later, a feat which I am particularly good at by now, and then full steam ahead and back to the left. Awhile later I pulled over to the shoulder, estimating about where on the other side I had dropped it, and waited for a lull in traffic. I dashed across to the meridian, figuring I'd walk first one way, then the other, all the while scanning the street. But only a few feet in front of me, to my surprise, glinted a piece of some sort of electronic equipment. Not recognizable as anything, mind you. "Oh, some other sorry person has dropped their . . . oh, crap," I thought. "Nope, I think that's actually mine".
CRUNCH! Just then a motorbike roared right over one of the dozen pieces my eyes discovered already mangled by fast and heavy traffic. I resisted the urge to shake my fist at the inconsiderate motorist. Knowing my GPS was already very very dead, they couldn't hurt it anymore.
I looked up the road, saw the lovely wrist band still intact, chiding me in its wholeness, and in another lane, what appeared to be 2 batteries. I actually stood there for awhile guaging how many pieces I could rescue before each new vehicle ripped by. My brain did the math: one, or if I was lucky two, pieces before I'd get hit. And I had to remind myself that even if I could magically retrieve all the pieces without being killed by speeding traffic, I just don't have the technical expertise to reassemble something like that. In fact, I don't think anyone does.
So . . . R.I.P., dear G.P.S. You will be missed. A foreign country brought us much closer and then brutally, literally shattered our relationship forever.
Now I must rely on my own observation skills and almost non-existent inner compass to navigate new lands and territories. No more plunging into maze-like night bazarres without taking careful note of where I am.
Back on my bike, I sadly and defeatedly made my way home.
Then I drove some more. Then I made several turns and WAIT A MINUTE. I am going in circles. Well, I'll just try something a little diff - WHERE AM I?? Oh, I see, I've passed that sign three times. I'm really good at this intersection already.
I parked on the side of the road and got out my enormous map with teeny tiny writing. Eyes hurt. So tired.
My keys fall right on top of a grate. My heart starts beating again when I see they haven't fallen into the sewer and left me stranded, though they balance precariously.
I call one of two friends I know in the area: "So there's a sign saying Chiang Mai is to the right, can you tell me where I am? No? Okay, how about I drive toward Chiang Mai until I find a familiar landmark. Sounds good."
I drive some more. A sign! I turn on road 118, which I've never heard of before. Then I pass a huge ESSO, gleaming blue and red and ENGLISH and beautiful. I park and call my other friend, giving him my excellent landmarks.
I find myself on the map, I can even find their house on the map - not far actually, but it is as if my mind is caught horribly in the Bermuda Triangle - compass spinning wildly, unable to do anything but make perpetual right turns, wide circles.
A few minutes he pulled up on motorbike, and I was so happy not to have to rely on my own navigation and problem solving skills anymore, just follow the kind light ahead of me.
We pulled a U-turn, then went left, which I had done several times in the last half hour. Passing a 7-11 moments later I think: "Wait! That's one of the places where I stopped to look at my map!"
However we then proceeded to go STRAIGHT instead of making anymore turns, until the final turn into the residential streets. Yeah, I was about five minutes away from their house.
I never got a chance to tell them how I was so close to OWNING Chiang Mai. I decided at that point it may not be as true as it once had been. Chastened, a little dishearted, trying to take comfort in my silk pants, I went to bed a humbled woman.