7 June 2010

Making Friends in Van Vieng

We hadn’t expected to find a cafe with Friends re-runs in Vang Vieng but travel is full of unexpected surprises.  Jane and I discovered this cafe on our first night in Van Vieng and had a great evening ‘veging’ out in front of the TV, something we hadn’t done in all this time of travelling. 

Intrepid Lao-1

It seemed the perfect place for a rendezvous with our new friends from this mornings tubing and kayaking.  We have arranged to meet after showers and a clean up so we could reminisce about the adventures of the day.  The cafe has low tables with fluffy cushions that you can sink into and is ideal for long nights of socialising.   Over dinner, I was able to chat with each of these very special people and they’ve given me the thumbs up to share their stories

Miller was born in Seoul and is an exceptional young man given that he began life in Korea, and P6050559comes from a culture that requires conformity.  He started his university career in IT and after a year of study goes on to complete his 2 year military service.  While there he experienced a turning point in his life and decided there was far more to life than completing a degree he was already bored with.  He quits his studies and decides that he would like to spend the next 10-years of his life experiencing different cultures, learning English and Chinese and becoming a far more worldly and skilled person in the global market place.  He tells me that the combination of English, Chinese and Korean will be a powerful combination of languages to be proficient in!

He plans to spend about a year each in a different country with interesting travel experiences thrown in before settling down or perhaps launching his own business?  When he first moved to the Philippines he knew no English and only communicated by sign language.  Three months in an English Academy and he was well on his way to becoming proficient in his second language.  He then enrols in a Hotel and Restaurant Management course to get a better understanding of the culture!  Since then he has  worked 7 months in OZ (in an abatoir in Rockhampton) and travelled in quite a few places including  South East Asia!  He has grand plans and dreams for his future including moving to China eventually.  He tells me he will take 10 years off when he turns 50 to just travel around the world and write an autobiography at the end of it all! 

We had already made friends with Raf on our way to Vang Vieng and were really happy to see him on the rafting trip.  He is a great character and loves socialising and meeting people.  Raf was born in Taipei and has recently completed his deP6050561gree in Advertising.  He tells me that travel helps him gain confidence and he has already seen a bit of the world including Japan and South East Asia.  He completed a year in the army and moved to OZ where he spent 9 months picking fruit in
Bundaberg!  He is on a 3 month trip on this vacation and has been to a few challenging places including India and Nepal.  Raf dreams of opening his own coffee shop which will be a centre for travellers to share their experiences and learn from each other.  He too would one day love to publish a book about his journey!   


Elle and Fei are a young couple from Thailand.  Elle (yes she named herself after the super model and you can see why!) is a young 23 year old who grew up in Thailand.  She met Fei while they were both studying accounting in the International University in Thailand.  Her parents separated when she was just 2 years old, rather unusual for Thai culture and she was brought up by a single mom who worked in the Army!  She and Fei have been going out for about 4 years but they have no plans to get married till they are much older.  Elle tells me she would like to get married at 28 and has various dreams for the future which perhaps might include a Masters at some point. 

Fei is 25 years old now and was born in Nanjing, China and moved to Thailand for his Uni studies.  He knew little English and no Thai so when he started dating Elle they had to use their limited English to communicate – not ideal. He decided he had better get proficient in Thai as it would make it all a lot simpler for their relationship.  They communicate in Thai now and are a delightful couple.  They both dream of travelling the world together and perhaps one day opening an import/export business given their international connections.  Fei also dreams of opening a Thai restaurant in China..and Elle, ever the practical girl, tells me this idea needs further research!

We spend a great evening together, exchange emails and facebook contacts and promise to stay in touch!  I may even meet up with Fei and Elle when I am in Bangkok, to catch my flight back to Sri Lanka.  We hug and say goodbye!  More international friends made in a moment of shared adventure.  Good luck my friends. You are all truly inspirational and it was a pleasure to meet you!


“If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space”.

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