“The Thailand Travel Diary” Part One
22 minute read
I have a love affair with Thailand which has become almost unconditional. Even though my desire is to venture all over the world and to discover new places, new ways of living, new ways of thinking, and to find all the little gems, quirks, and even the flaws of these places, Thailand always comes calling.
Thailand is like that reliable friend who can put its arm around you and say that it will always be there for you. When you need to unwind and be revitalised, it will offer you a sea of tranquillity. When you need to open your mind and embrace new culture, it will offer you the majestic. When you need to believe in kindness and living in harmony, it will offer you the Thai people. Whatever it is that you’re looking for when you travel, Thailand has it.
There are serene rural landscapes, rice paddies with dramatic mountainous backdrops, jagged limestone cliffs poking out of the sea, and thriving jungles and lush forests providing a beautiful blanket of emerald greenery.
The south offers a vast array of tropical islands with white sandy beaches which will satisfy both those in search of a peaceful beachside retreat as well as those who are in search of a vibrant party scene.
For the culture and history lover there are impossibly beautiful temples, golden Buddha’s and ancient ruins, as well as being able to observe the customs and ways of life of the Thai people.
The wildlife enthusiast will be able to engage in a rich and diverse collection both at land and sea which include monkeys, gibbons, bears, tigers, leopards, dolphins, sharks, and whales, and of course the country’s national animal; the elephant.
Thailand boasts an abundance of colours, smells, sights, and sounds; each of which provide a true sensory overload. No matter where you are, it’s just there. And then there’s the food. Oh wow, there’s the FOOD! My first ever trip to Thailand lasted for two months and I ate Thai food, every day, and I never once got bored of it. There really is no wonder that it’s a cuisine which is so adored around the world. Whether you decide to eat on the roadside from street vendors or whether you prefer to sit down and eat in a restaurant, you’re always going to be in for a treat with such an emphasis being placed on fresh and local ingredients mixed with the sweet, the spicy, the salty and the sour.
Thailand is a place that needs to be experienced first-hand to truly understand it. There is just a way about the country and of the people, and once you’ve truly engaged in it you’re never quite the same person again. Coming from the West it’s easy to initially enter the country and to hang on to the ways and everyday habits from back home. But it doesn’t take long to understand that it works differently in this part of the world and to blend in and to adopt the same mindset is a pleasure.
Opinions are not argued about, confrontation isn’t encouraged, emphasis is placed upon saving face and helping others to save face, and the people believe in living in harmony. The drudgery and grind of work is removed by making the emphasis about having fun and finding pleasure in day-to-day activities. The word ‘sanuk’ is often used to define this way of being, but whether this is an exact definition of the word doesn’t really matter; the point is, we could all learn a lot from introducing some of it into our own lives.
I’ve written before that one of the most important things to me about visiting somewhere is the people that I meet (both travellers and locals), and this is never more true than when I am in Thailand.
And then there is that smile. The ever-present smile.
For anybody that has ever been to Thailand they will understand my love of the country, but for those that have not yet been there’s a conversation that normally precedes any visit that I have to this part of the world. The conversation (which generally only gets instigated by other men) goes a little something like this:
“So you’re going away on holiday then Elliot?”
“Yes, that’s right. I’m leaving on Saturday.”
“Cool. Where are you going?”
“Sweet. Are you going with friends?”
“No, no, I’m going alone.”
“You’re going alone?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
A wry little smile appears and then their thumb is raised, the index finger extended, and with the thumb tipping forward slightly, I’m given the ‘wink and the gun’.
“Ah, got ya. Say hello to those lady-boy’s for me.”
To which I just sigh.
“Looking forward to meeting your new Thai bride mate.”
I turn away, shaking my head.
“Yeah, yeah, see you when I’m back dickhead.”
Day 1 – Friday (London, England)
I’ve always believed that a holiday begins the second you leave your house and start heading towards either the airport, train station, bus station, or the slip road of the motorway where you intend to hitch a ride to goodness knows where. And so it makes perfect sense for this diary to begin while I’m en-route towards London, late on a surprisingly mild Friday afternoon in December.
It was playing on my mind quite heavily that the last time I’d been in South East Asia was eight years previous when I spent a month in the country of Laos. As I sat mulling over these dates it also occurred to me that this was also the first time in eight years that I’d gone anywhere abroad with a fully kitted out backpack. And it was at this moment of realisation when I received a text from a good friend who was wishing me a safe trip and asking me how it felt to now be classed as one of those ‘creepy older backpackers’. You know who you are. Thank you so much for that text.
I’ve also spoken before about comfort zones being like an ever-shrinking bubble which will suffocate you unless you allow yourself to live outside of it, and it occurred to me that this is something I’d become guilty of myself. But a few days prior to heading out to Thailand, Lossul.com finally went live; and believe me, this is something that terrified me.
To suddenly take a project which had been cooking away in private between just me, my laptop, and the four walls of my house, and then to put it out in front of the public, was not an easy thing to do. When I first wrote the official post on Facebook, my heart was pounding, my fingers were shaking, and I felt sick when I hit the ‘post’ button. But despite my fears of how it may be received, the world didn’t end, the hands on the clock kept on moving, and, well, everything was just fine. Because the reality is that the fear that precedes an event is usually far worse than any outcome of the event itself. But this is a topic for a whole other article, so watch this space.
The bubble of the comfort zone had also closed in tightly around my solo-backpacking and I was aware that this trip was going to be the start of a new chapter. I needed to take that eight year break, blow off the cob-webs, point it towards Thailand, and hit the ‘GO’ button. This was a mission to give myself a good kick up the arse and get back to doing what it is that I love so much. If only I didn’t feel so nervous about it.
As I arrived at my hotel in London I decided to settle into things by finding a bar to have a drink. I wasn’t flying until the following afternoon and so I had a full evening and a steady morning ahead of me in which to unwind and relax. An hour later I was sat watching the football in a quiet little bar with a pint of Coors and a single measure of Balvenie. My pocket vibrated and as I picked out my phone to read a text message, I suddenly heard the voice of a foreign man addressing me by asking:
“Can I eat your nuts?”
I looked up to find a very strange middle-aged man pointing at the tray of peanuts that were sat in front of me.
“Erm, sure, help yourself.”
And he then took this as an invitation to sit down with me and share my company. Now this isn’t something that would normally bother me and in fact I very openly encourage talking to and spending time with strangers. However, this was one very strange little man wearing trousers that were too short for him, a scruffy shirt that was un-tucked on just one side of his waistline, and a long coat which just screamed out the word ‘flasher’. His hair was all over the place, his beard was just wrong, and his eyes were the size of breakfast bowls. There seemed to be some kind of formal event going on in a separate room and so every now and then there would be groups of very elegantly dressed young women walking through the bar, and the way in which he eye-balled them and dribbled from his mouth like a rabid dog once again screamed out the word ‘flasher’. I tried to keep conversation to an absolute minimum but what I did learn was that he was from Western Europe and had not long been in the country, despite the fact that he had no passport. What further concerned me was that he proceeded to ask me if I had any idea how he might be able to get into America without a passport. I was baffled as to why he thought I might have any insight on such a thing!
“Erm, to be honest, I think you might struggle. Passport Control are quite keen on seeing, you know, passports.”
“Ah, okay, okay.”
And he continued to nod and look around the room with his flasher breakfast bowl eyes. I then decided it was a good idea to say as little as possible and just respond to his comments with little smiles and nods, remaining polite, yet telling him in a non-verbal way to leave me alone. Eventually he got the message and stepped back from the table, pulled his trousers up to his chest, and then wobbled out of the bar.
“You found yourself a new friend?”
I turned to find the waitress smiling at me.
“I was going to come and interrupt and help you out a little.”
I laughed. “So why didn’t you? I’d have appreciated that.”
“I’m sorry, can I get you another drink?”
“I think I need one. A pint of Coors and a Highland Park please. One ice cube.”
“Coming right up.”
Halfway down my next pint I really started to fancy some company. And I mean some normal company. No more flashers. My eyes scanned the bar for somebody else to approach and talk to. There was a rowdy group filling up a large table in one corner of the room, but I wasn’t really feeling in a rowdy mood. There was a guy sat alone in another corner of the room, but if I approached him then that could give out the wrong message. And then finally there were two very attractive ladies sat at a table on the far side of the room; JACKPOT! Here I go.
Picking up my drink, I wandered over and introduced myself. They both smiled and responded.
“Hi Elliot. Would you like to join us?”
“I certainly would.”
I pulled out a chair and sat down, shaking the hands of the blonde and the brunette. They had a very exotic look about them but I couldn’t quite place their accents. So I proceeded to ask them where they were from and what they did for a living.
“We’re both from Israel, and we’re recruitment consultants back home.”
“Oh really? That’s great. So what are you doing here in London?”
“Well once a year as a bonus we get sent abroad for a two week holiday.”
“Yes, it is. But when we’re away from home we still like to engage in business and make some money.”
“Oh really. So what kind of business are you involved in when you’re in London?”
I took a mouthful of Coors.
“Oh, we’re in the business of making love.”
I almost choked. Did they really just say what I thought they said? And why did they have to say it at the very moment that I had a mouthful of beer? I coughed and had to suppress the drink that was ready to spray back out of my mouth and all over these two ladies of the night.
“Yes, we’re not professionals, but we know exactly what we’re doing.”
They both sat there staring at me, smiling expectantly.
“Well, yes, I can believe that. But I have to be honest with you. I really wasn’t expecting that.”
They both continued to stare. And they both continued to smile.
“Erm, well, look I’d better be leaving. There might be somebody here who is willing to pay for your company. I just thought I’d say hello.”
“Okay, but if you change your mind.”
As I got up to leave I turned around, raised my glass, smiled, and said.
“I hope you have a productive night.”
Why oh why did I say that?
Day 2 – Saturday (London, England)
As I sat in Terminal 5 at Heathrow just passing time, I had one of the strangest of encounters. Although it wasn’t actually an encounter as such.
An American man sat down opposite me and was talking on his mobile with ear-phones in, hands free. He was engaged deeply in a conversation and although I really don’t like listening in on other people’s conversations, this was impossible to avoid with him sat so closely. It was quite clear that he was speaking to a close friend, yet in a very strange way with him sat there opposite me, speaking hands free, it almost felt like he was talking directly to me. And it turned out to be one of the most powerful conversations that I was never actually involved in.
I bowed my head and listened as he spoke of his father having passed away just last week. The whole family had been present for his passing, and to use his words, he’d had a good death. I started to choke up a little as he spoke with such ease, with such calmness, and with such a sense of peace in his voice.
And it went on much further as he and his friend spoke of a mutual friend of theirs that had recently lost his wife and daughter on the same day. I tried to digest the depth of these losses and what they must do to a person, yet he still continued to speak with such a sense of acceptance, with such a sense of peace, and with such forgiveness for a world that had taken so much from himself and his loved ones.
And to compound all of this he also spoke of a merger that was taking place at the company he worked for and how he was potentially going to be losing his job. My head sunk lower and I felt ashamed for having allowed myself to dwell on such silly insignificant things, like the nerves I was feeling for the trip, when there are people in this world experiencing real problems.
He stood up and walked away, still talking to his friend on the phone, and I watched him until he disappeared into the crowd. We’d not even spoken, we’d not even made eye contact, yet this complete stranger had managed to have such a profound effect on me. How can somebody experience such significant loss and face so much uncertainty and yet still manage to find perspective and be at peace? Even to this day, two months later as I write this journal onto the website, I have not forgotten this man or the impact that he had upon me that afternoon. Wherever he is in the world today, I am grateful to him.
It really is incredible, the capacity to have an impact on others, and be impacted by others, without even being aware of it.
Day 3 – Sunday (Bangkok, Thailand)
It was just before noon when I arrived in the Banglamphu district of Bangkok and as I climbed out of the taxi I was quickly swallowed up by the humidity. As I pulled on my backpack and stood adjusting the straps, the taxi driver walked around to me and held out his hand for me to shake. I shook his hand and he said “thank you”, and then I loosened the grip, brought both my hands together in front of my chest, offered a ‘wai’ gesture, and said “khap khun khrap”. We both smiled, recognising that we’d both shown respect of the customs of each other’s respective countries. I picked up the bag of fried bananas which the driver had been kind enough to buy for me from a street vendor who’d been moving from car to car when we’d been stuck in traffic, and then I started walking.
I’d been dropped not far from the Khao San Road (the backpacker capital of Bangkok) and I’d memorised the route to my hotel from this point. Taking in the familiar sights, sounds, and smells as I negotiated my way through the busy streets, I spotted a homeless man sat alongside the road. This is certainly not an unfamiliar sight in Bangkok, but this man really didn’t look well at all, and so as I walked past I made eye contact with him, smiled and gave him the bag of fried bananas. He accepted them, looked up at me, nodded his head, and smiled.
Twenty minutes later I was in my hotel room, unpacking, and was suddenly aware at just how uncomfortable I was feeling. I felt completely out of sorts. Maybe it was just jet lag. Yes, that was it. I was tired, my head was fuzzy, and I couldn’t think straight. Yes, it’s definitely jet lag, it has to be. Or was it? I sat on the edge of the bed trying to work out why I was feeling this way, but it wasn’t until closer towards the end of the trip that I finally put my finger on it. But for now I decided it was a good idea to have a shower, get changed, and head out into Bangkok to face it head on.
And that’s exactly what I did.
Later that afternoon I was sat outside of the Green House; a thriving restaurant and guest house located on Rambuttri, which runs parallel to the Khao San Road. I’d taken a walk up the Khao San earlier in the afternoon but something about it felt different from the last time I was there. I’m still not sure exactly what it was, but I found myself leaving it behind and moving on to the slightly more relaxed vibes of Rambuttri.
I still wasn’t feeling quite myself, so I ordered myself a plate of Pad Thai, lined myself up a large bottle of Chang beer, and then commenced in a spot of people watching. I kept repeating over and over in my head, “Come on Elliot. Get into it mate.” But I just couldn’t. And I really had to force myself to smile.
A little while later I noticed a young woman approaching who then sat down at the single table next to me. Her chair was facing the same direction as mine, and we ended up sat alongside each other, both looking out onto the road. The waiter came over, took her order, and then left again. I couldn’t decide whether to say anything or not. Go on Elliot. No, I can’t. I’m not feeling at my best. I really can’t. Elliot, do it. Just do it!
But I didn’t say a word.
A little while later the waiter came back over and brought the young woman a plate of Pad Thai. I’d given up on any attempt to say anything to her, but just as she picked up her chopsticks, right out of nowhere, I spoke.
“That’s a really good choice of dish.”
Where did that come from? I’d told myself I wouldn’t speak to her. And then she turned to face me, our eyes met, and we both smiled.
Her name was Iva. She was born in Bulgaria and grew up there, but she was now living in Germany. The conversation started off with many of the regular questions that are asked whenever you meet new people away from home; how long you’re travelling, where you’ve been, and where you’re going next. The majority of the time these conversations are an absolute pleasure and can then move onto much better and more personal subjects, but sometimes it can feel so forced and generic that you just want to get away from it as quickly as possible. With Iva, it was neither of these things. This conversation was a whole other kind of conversation; the conversations which are the best and rarest kind to find yourself experiencing. These are the conversations where you click on such a personal level that it feels like you’ve known each other for years. In fact, they feel so comfortable and so incredibly easy that you start asking yourself if you’ve met before.
Iva had been travelling for almost six weeks and was nearing the end of her trip. I was sat there, jet-lagged and with no tan, and Iva was sat there looking sun-kissed, golden, and completely laid-back. We couldn’t have looked more different, yet we were so alike. Iva had already been back in Bangkok for a couple of days and was quick to recommend some places that she’d found, one of which we found ourselves moving onto next.
Wandering steadily up through the middle of Rambuttri we stopped off at a bar and took a seat outside where a blues band was playing cover songs. The band consisted of three musicians; a female vocalist with an incredibly powerful voice, a lead guitarist who looked like a Thai version of Bobby from Sons of Anarchy, and a second guitarist who was happy to sit at the back and receive minimal recognition. As our drinks arrived, the vocalist noticed Iva and waved.
“Wow. You’re a real regular here huh?”
Smiling, Iva replied. “I really like it here.”
And then I had one of those ‘moments’. The moments which for me totally summarise what I love so much about travelling, and that’s when you find yourself detaching from all thoughts and being just completely in the moment, taking everything in, experiencing a moment that will stay with you forever.
I looked around, seeing all the contrasts of people milling around, the crazy and vibrant atmosphere of Bangkok, the vivid colours, the smells from the food cooking alongside the road, and then glancing at Iva and seeing her completely immersed in the music and smiling. And then I looked up to the night sky and had the realisation that this is all happening to me and I’m on the other side of the world.
I suddenly realised that the apprehensions I’d been feeling earlier that day were slipping away from me. I was starting to relax. And I was feeling good.
After we finished listening to a fantastic cover of Little Wing by Jimi Hendrix, we decided to move on to somewhere a little quieter. We left the main drag of Rambuttri, played ‘chicken’ with the taxis and the tuk-tuks as we crossed Chakrabongse Road, and then continued to the quieter area of Soi Rambuttri.
We took a seat outside of Sawasdee House and ordered another drink. I explained to Iva how lost I’d been feeling when I’d first arrived in Bangkok, but that I’d had the most wonderful evening and that it had made all the difference. I was now feeling ready.
And then the realisation hit. All of this; everything I’d experienced this evening, and the transition that I’d undergone in such a short space of time may never have happened if I’d not made the effort to say hello to the person who had sat down beside me.
Every action we take, every decision we make, every direction we turn; it all leads to somewhere.
It was 4.30pm when we met, it was 10.30pm when we said goodnight, and those six hours passed by in what felt like five minutes.
Day 4 – Monday (Bangkok)
I slept for nine hours solid, then dozed for a further three hours, and when I finally managed to drag myself out of bed and into the shower at around noon, I felt much more awake. Iva and I had agreed to meet up once again in the evening at around 6pm so I had a good five hours or so to head out and enjoy Bangkok.
As I sat once again outside the Green House eating banana pancakes and drinking coffee, I looked around and took in the familiar sights of Bangkok.
There are the touts trying to sell the usual tourist-tat such as the oversized lighters and the wooden frogs that make the croaking sound (when a small stick is ran down its spine), the men pushing fruit carts, and the bird’s nests of electrical wiring hanging from every lamppost. Then there are the restaurant staff pouring waste water into the drains at the side of the road, the street vendors, and the sound of Thai ladies saying “sawadee-khaaaaaaa”. And you can’t go a minute without seeing a stereotypical traveller with dreadlocks; which always gets me thinking of the absolutely brilliant rant that Will has in the Inbetweeners 2 movie.
And then there are the different types of Westerners. There are the people who, like myself, are here to enjoy the experience for a short time before heading home. Then there are those who are quite clearly longer term travellers and are well and truly settled into the lifestyle. And finally, there are those who are neither of the above; they’re the ones who have come to the country and, whether accidentally or intentionally, have cut off and perhaps have no intention of ever returning home. They just have a look about them. You can see it in their eyes.
But things have advanced since I was last in Bangkok and the most noticeable thing is technology. At one time you had to fight to get to a terminal in an internet cafe whereas now they’re almost redundant. Smart-phones are everywhere. At one point I was considering leaving my iPhone at home as I wanted to bring as few valuables away with me as possible, but looking around it seemed that everybody had one. They’re as commonplace here as they are back in the West.
Despite this, I still felt as though I wanted to limit my usage while I was away, or more accurately, I wanted to seriously cut back on my use of Facebook while away from home. Yes there are times when it’s nice to be connected and to have that little piece of home in the palm of your hand, but there are times when it makes you feel a little too close to home. One of the best things about travelling is getting away and cutting off from everything, so to sit scrolling through your newsfeed and to see the same things that you see everyday back at home just defeats the point.
And if I were to sit in a restaurant at night, killing time by perusing Facebook and messaging people back home, I’d fail to see the opportunities around me to meet real people in the here and now, to form new human connections. And so there’s a certain irony that under these circumstances, Facebook, which is a tool for connecting humans could actually prevent me from making human connections. How about that for a mind-fuck?
I also think that it’s important not to become too reliant on having the company of all those people in the palm of your hand, and I’ve found over the years that spending time in solitude can be incredibly beneficial. But it’s also essential not to spend too much time alone and become too reclusive. It’s a balance, and it’s a pendulum that swings back and forth between company, and solitude, company, and solitude. In life, it’s important to know that you can survive and thrive alone, but there’s also nothing more beautiful than sharing life with the people who matter most; that’s something which becomes more evident the older I get.
When I was in Thailand back in 2004 I had a horrible case of food-poisoning and after travelling all day, in agony, I arrived in the city of Trang in an absolute mess. I got the first hotel room I could find; a dirty, nasty, horrible little dive of a place. I crawled into bed, sweating, hurting, and I prepared to see myself through to the other side of the illness. I had no phone with me, and I couldn’t even comfort myself with music, my one remaining pleasure, as I’d broken my headphones the day before. All I had was a dirty mattress, a filthy toilet, and those four horrible walls. I had nobody to text, nobody to talk to, no Facebook to connect with, and the only person who could tell me I’d be alright was myself. The experience was transcendent, and when I left that room two days later I felt like a new man with a whole new side to my character. I knew that even at my lowest, I could pick myself back up.
Today I found a whole new side to Bangkok which I’d never managed to find before; peace and quiet. And I found it purely by accident. One of my favourite things to do when in Bangkok is just to walk and walk and see where I end up. The city is colossal in size, but the reassuring thing is that even if you get lost, with the abundance of tuk-tuks flying around you’ll always be able to hop into one at any point and find your way back to your starting point.
And it was just when I took a turn down a narrow roadway that things started to get really quiet. For once I could actually hear the birds singing in the trees and the distant sound of chickens clucking. I took another turn down a narrow alleyway and right towards the end I found a rustic little bar with a cool bohemian vibe. They were even playing some music by Jack Johnson (it’s good to know that at least some things in Thailand never change). I took a seat, ordered a Chang, and spent the next couple of hours reading and people watching. It was wonderful.
At 5.00pm I left the bar and started heading back to my hotel to get showered and ready for dinner, but just as I was walking along Chakrabongse Road I heard somebody call my name. I turned to see Iva sat on a step on the roadside. I smiled.
“Hey stranger, how are you?”
I sat down on the step next to Iva and we both talked about what we’d done with our day. In comparison to the day before, it was now both of us that were looking laid-back and relaxed.
“Are will still on for dinner?”
“Sure thing. I was just on my way back to grab a quick shower. Meet you at 6pm?”
“Sure. See you then.”
And on that note I set off back to my hotel.
An hour later, Iva and I were sat having a beer, picking up where we left off the day before with the conversation flowing with complete ease. But the subjects got deeper, and this was never more evident than when we got talking about economics and the global financial situation. Well, I say when WE got talking, but the reality is that it was Iva doing the majority of the talking while I just listened and offered the occasional bite-sized contribution. Now I’ll openly admit that this is a subject with some real intricacies that I really do not understand in any great depth, and I think Iva started to think she’d began to bore me. But the reality is that as an intelligent young woman with an established background in finances, Iva was really clued up on this subject and so I was happy to just sit back, listen, and to consider myself being educated.
The conversation then lightened as we got back onto the subject of travelling and what the definition of a ‘traveller’ is. This is a debate that has gone on for as long as I can remember, and there are many of my friends that will be reading this right now who know exactly where I’m going with this. We’ve all had the same conversation before.
There’s no doubt that ‘travel snobbery’ does exist, and this is something that is demonstrated perfectly in the movie, The Inbetweeners 2. There are a handful of scenes in which Will tries to edge his way into conversations with two male backpackers (one of which has the clichéd dreadlocks that I mentioned earlier) who are already trying to one-up each other with statements about where they’ve been, and what they’ve done. Will continues to seek their approval as though they’re the gurus of travel, when in actual fact they turn out to be nothing but a pair of pretentious dicks.
Early on in the movie, Will bumps into an old (and really annoying) school friend, Katie, who he clearly still holds a torch for and also continues to attempt to win over throughout the movie. In their first conversation it unfolds a little something like this.
“I’m here visiting my friend who works in the toilet.” Will jokes.
(Laughing) “You always made me laugh you nutter” (punches Will’s arm in a friendly way but which both you and I know is actually really bloody irritating) “What are you really doing?” Katie asks.
“Travelling. Out here for four weeks.”
“Oh, so you’re on holiday.”
The biggest argument on this subject seems to be about the duration of travelling, and it seems that the six week mark is the point at which you go from being a tourist, to being a traveller (apparently). But my take on all this is quite simple; who gives a shit! Seriously, what the hell does it matter? Yes there is no doubt that the longer you’re away and the more you cut off from home, the more you become open to change, to challenging your ways of thinking, and to having a much more rounded experience. I do truly believe that. But I fail to see how timescale alone can dictate this.
What matters to me more than anything is a person’s mindset when they travel. Does a person go away and want to experience a whole new way of life? Do they wish to observe other cultures and as a result, challenge our own cultures and ways of thinking? Do they wish to open themselves up, to open their hearts, and to live only for the moment? Does a person wish to be placed in situations that test them and to grow as a result? Do they wish to find the beauty that this world and this life has to offer, and respectively, do they also wish to see some of the uglier sides in order to really appreciate and be grateful for their own lives? Does that person realise that there is more to life than what they have back home? And does this person want to go and see what these things are with their own two eyes? All of this, to me, is travelling; and it has nothing to do with timescales.
There are no tick boxes. Just live and let live.
Iva and I were walking steadily along Rambuttri but it was getting late and I was only too aware that I needed to get up early the following morning. But I wasn’t quite ready to call it a night and so I suggested one more drink. This time though we didn’t go to a bar, and instead I bought a Leo Beer from the nearest 7 Eleven and Iva bought a fruit-shake from a street vendor. We found the step in which we’d bumped into each other earlier in the afternoon and sat down with our drinks.
For the next hour we had our best conversation yet. We’d both managed to challenge each other’s ways of thinking, shared personal stories, and we’d also developed a sincere trust in each other. Quite simply, Iva and I had clicked, and we just ‘got’ each other. I’ve said previously that strangers are just friends that we’ve not met yet, and I’ve asked myself a few times since meeting Iva how the trip may have turned out if I’d not made that effort to say hello. Would I not have settled into things so quickly? Who knows. All I do know is that when you take a chance in life, anything is possible. I know Iva and I will remain close friends, and what I also know is that neither one of us was quite ready to say goodbye. But that’s a part of travelling; you meet people, and you leave people. Sometimes you’re ready to part ways, and other times you want to continue onwards with that person.
I was now ready to head to Koh Tao, but in truth these were the best two days I’d ever had in Bangkok.
As Iva and I stood on the sidewalk with the crowds of people moving around us, we gave each other a hug and said our goodbyes. But as we broke out of the embrace and walked away in opposite directions, I decided not to turn and look back. I didn’t need to see Iva disappear, because I already knew deep down that we’d meet again one day. Friendships like these are hard to find, and so when you do find them, you don’t easily let them go.
I walked slowly towards my hotel feeling at peace, and I smiled as I thought back over the past two days.
But this was only the beginning, for I had no idea about what else was in store for me or just how good the trip was really about to get.
CLICK HERE FOR PART 2 OF THE THAILAND TRAVEL DIARY
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