20 June 2010

The Night Train to Bangkok

My South East Asian journey has almost come to P6180270an end.  My three new friends, Sanit (our guide) and I are on the night train to Bangkok.  Ed will travel with Sanit to Southern Thailand to enjoy a bit of R&R on the beach and a full moon party.  Helen wishes she could be there for the party but she is on her way with Emily to Malaysia and Singapore.  We have bonded really well over our 3 day adventure in the wilds of Thailand..or was that the hills of Chiang Mai?   The intense activity and challenges of the last week made us all really supportive of each other and we have become great friends despite the fact these 3 are still…just …in their twenties!

We have spent so much time sharing our hopes and dreams for the future, so I thought I would share their stories with you..

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Emily is a fiercely independent 25 year old who was born and raised in Texas.  She describes herself as uber liberal and I can sense her spirit of adventure!  She has just completed a year teaching English in South Korea so we instantly had more than a few connections!   She has studied interior design but due to the Global Financial Crises, was not able to find work after graduation.  After months of living with mum and dad and working in a doughnut shop, she got a random email in her junk mail folder advertising a teaching position in Korea!  This was so much off the scale of her preferred life path that she deleted the email.  She was quite taken aback when less than 24 hours later a family friend mentioned their son had been teaching English in Japan and that it had been a great experience for him.  Her interest sparked, she started researching her options and decided she wanted to give Seoul a chance.  She didn’t know anyone who had been there and patiently talked her parents round to the idea of her moving to Korea.  As it turned out, her sister had also just been hired by Delta as an auto mechanic (only one of 2 females in this job for Delta) which meant cheap tickets for her family to visit! 

This decision turned out to be a fantastic experience for her and she is now going solo,  travelling around Asia for 15 weeks before heading back to Texas.  She tells me that her time in Korea has reaffirmed her beliefs about herself and confirmed she can be flexible, adaptable and strong – all qualities common to many solo  travellers!  She has also learnt one of the most important lessons in life – people are people no matter where they are born and travel helps you to understand and befriend those whose cultures and outlook in life might be very different to your own.    She wants to find her dream job in a big city, which would enable her to combine her passions of design with some element of travel.  She would be happy to move overseas again but after a visit to her folks she plans to move to NY, in search of her dream.  Check out her website..and if you are interested in a liberal designer who can think outside the square, give Em a holler…www.emilylampe.com

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Helen is a delightful girl from Derbyshire, who is 26 years old, a nurse by profession with a phobia for squat toilets!  She is travelling the world for 8 months in search of new life experiences.  She has commenced her travels in South East Asia and will continue on to OZ, New Zealand and Fiji.  This is her first big trip going solo but her taste for travel was aroused when she travelled to America previously.  NY, CA and Vegas will do that to you every time!    She is on this journey after being turned down for a job on a cruise ship.  She turned a negative to a positive by getting on the phone to her travel agent and booking this trip within one day of hearing the disappointing news.  While doing something a little radical had been on her mind for awhile, there were many doubting Thomas’ in Derbyshire who at first wondered if she could pull this one off.  She describes herself as impulsive and dramatic..which explains her quick decision!   She is having a blast and challenging herself to push the boundaries.  I was a witness to this and can say without a doubt she more than achieved that in the few days I saw her in action!  She misses her wonderful friends and family back home but was certainly growing into a regular GI Jane before our eyes! 

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Ed is very definitely an English gentleman, (perhaps the only one left?..only kidding folks)  a 25 year old who was born in Somerset and now resides in London.  He has recently completed his studies in history and law and like Em, found it hard to be employed given the financial crisis.  This led him to take a year off and volunteer with the Citizens Advice Bureau in London, where free legal advice is offered to anyone who cares to drop by.

When he was offered a job in the UK, which is due to commence in September, he decided it was time to hit the road before settling into a routine again.  He is travelling for 10 weeks, and the highlights of his journey have included the trek up Machu Pichu, the Eastern back packer trail up the coast in OZ, and of course trekking around Chiang Mai with us.  (Did he really say that??)…

He is not ready to give up on the travel bug but needs to get back to England to kick start his career.  He says he loves a challenge and cites travelling with us 3 chicks as an example!  He tells me he is never content and dreams of actually living a contended life one day and wonders if that would be hard, given his ambitious spirit!  He is not that fussed about getting married and having kids, but he is in a four year relationship with his girl friend back home..who I am sure must be missing him greatly!   This is his first time outside Europe and from what I have seen of this young man, I am sure there will be many more long haul flights in his future! 


Ah…Sanit – what a delightful Thai  man..turned out to be our guide and has still  retained his boyish charm!  I find it hard to believe he is 31 years old!   He has had a colourful past having grown up watching his grand dad smoking opium as a youngster of 7 and giving it a try himself as a kid!  He has had a few relationship including one with a Canadian girl he met while she was in Thailand doing some volunteer work. While this took him on a journey to Canada, the relationship has ended.  He is now in a ‘friendship’ with a girl from the UK..like I said that boyish charm will never fail him!  He was a great tour leader and went out of his way to organise optional trips for us on request but I particularly enjoyed trekking the hills with a young lad who grew up in a hill tribe himself!


Travel is full of coincidences and when we gave Alan a lift in our truck on the way back from our trek, ‘cos he had a flat in his bike, I didn’t expect to see him again.  We had chatted back then and I learnt he was a mental health nurse from Liverpool who now lives in Bondi Junction – small world. 

The world just got smaller on Friday night when I find he is sitting opposite me on the train to Bangkok!  He only just makes the 4.30pm train as is all hot and bothered when he finds his seat.  We have a really good connection and find lots to talk about.  Alan is 44 years old and has a passion for his ukulele and his bike, both of which have come travelling with him!

I have never met anyone who works with heroin addicts and I find his approach to his job just as fascinating as his line of work.  He tells me about the growing movement to legalise drug use in OZ and we talk about ICE and what Alan claims is an unnecessary hysteria around its use.  He believes that a number of doctors are using it to further their careers while he thinks the problems around alcohol use, in Sydney in particular are much worse.  He has seen first hand the alcohol fuelled violence in the CBD and says that has shocked him more than the effects of ICE.  He believes that the excessive use of alcohol turns people into violent demons but journalist want sensational stories and there is no one who really wants to pay attention to his findings. 

He is a fan of Cheguvera’s approach to medicine and believes we need more revolutionary doctors who are willing to treat a patient wholistically.  We talk about Cheguvera and how he wanted to educate people to eat better food, get an education, and learn  how best to use their land.  Today, we are all searching for a quick fix and unfortunately the medical model he wishes to promote may never be part of mainstream society. 

Alan is also a fan of Castro and is reading a book that documents a journalists’ interviews of him. He has visited Cuba and tells me lots about this country of which I know little and I have yet to visit.  We talk about the blockades imposed by the US and the western propaganda against Castro and Cuba.  What fascinating conversation for a train journey.  It is midnight and my fellow travellers or would that be revellers are back from the disco dancing compartment – a little worse the wear for  all the beer they have been consuming!  We say good night.  It is time to get a bit of shut eye..but Alan is catching a flight back to the UK at the same time my flight leaves for Colombo so there is a chance we may bump into each other once more…  


“Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.” Gail Devers”

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