As I prepare to leave the land of geckos, coconuts and ladyboys, I figure it’s time for a brief update on my plans and some general housecleaning of the blog. Prague is my next destination and I feel like I should be ready for a change of climate and cuisine, but I can’t help being saddened that I am leaving SEA. It’s been a really rad 2 months and I feel like there is still so much I left untouched, especially after my recent week-long venture into Cambodia. As I was enduring the 6 hour third class train from Bangkok to the Cambodian border, I realized wholeheartedly that I love Thailand. My seat was heinously uncomfortable plastic and the train car unbelievably crowded along with no A/C in 90 degree heat, but as I stared out the open window at acre upon acre of farmland and palms I felt a settling peace and contentment that made my ass ache less. Even with movies like “The Beach” and “Hangover 2″ exposing the fun to be had and beauty to be seen in Thailand, I frequently wonder; why don’t more Americans come here? It’s strange how much Thailand seems like an undiscovered paradise at times, even when I’m amongst the crowds of European, Scandinavian, British and Australian tourists/backpackers. It’s just strangely uncommon to run into other Americans. In my 2 months here I’ve only met a handful, not a single north (or south) Carolinian, and only one from my stomping grounds of the southeast in general. Not saying that this is an incredibly bad thing, I get to enjoy being minority most of the time and picking up on the many language and cultural differences of our English speaking brethren from across both ponds.
When vagabonding, you not only visit interesting and unique places, you also get to meet a variety of interesting and unique people. Kindred souls or polar opposites, there something about traveling that gets me out of my introverted shell. That person sitting next to you on the island ferry or 8 hour night bus ride might be just an annoying 20 minute conversation or they could end up being your travel buddy for weeks, you just never know until you speak up. As a single traveler most of the time, I often ponder the benefits of a travel buddy; they will watch your bag when you go pee, they will split cab/hotel cost with you and they don’t mind as much when you pass out on their shoulder on that 8 hour night bus. I’ve picked up a couple good travel buddies in my time here, Travis and John of course, Shawn, Ollie & Gabby and James, Casey and now enter Kelvin and Sophia.
During my sweat drenched, rat infested, scam ridden journey across the Thailand border into Cambodia I chanced to meet this couple, an American guy from Wisconsin and a British gal from Brighton. They extended a helping hand to me when it was apparent I was a bit overwhelmed and close to my breaking point. Through our subsequent border crossing and shared taxi ride into Siem Reap we struck up a partnership that lasted my full week in Cambodia. We played tomb raider in the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat, ate a confusing Cambodia BBQ and had quite a few tequila and dancing infused late nights.
One evening, shortly after placing 3rd in a Cambodian pub quiz (and polishing off two towers of Anchor Beer), we were approached by an adorable waif of an Australian girl who was looking for some buddies herself, so in the nature that almost all travelers here share, we gave her a chair and poured her a beer from our tower. Jagerbombs and ridiculous dance moves later, we had ourselves a veritable gang. The wonderful Rachel was a sharp witted, ukelele toting aussie gal who shared the same creative and nerdy traits of all my great friends back home, only with an Australian accent, schwing! She is quite hilarious and you can see for yourself on her blog, http://www.racheltripsitup.wordpress.com. Seriously, do it, she’s a much more entertaining writer than me and she will have loads of great stories to tell as she works teaching in Cambodia.
The hard part comes when it’s time to go your separate ways. You feel like you’ve made a connection with some people that is lasting and just when the fun starts you are called in different directions, c’est la vie. You hope that one day your paths may cross again, but the odds are hardly ever in your favor (no Hunger Games pun intended). However, you never know, I thought I said my final goodbyes to my trek-mates in Chiang Mai, only to meet up with them a week later in distant Koh Tao. It’s all part of the ride, sometimes you feel up and sometimes you crash, but as the Chinese proverb states, “the journey is the reward”. Sorry if this post seems a little scatterbrained, it’s probably because I truly feel that way at the moment. Excited and anxious for a new part of the world to explore but occasionally detached and depressed that I have to leave one of the best places on earth. To make up for the terrible writing and flow, here are some fun housecleaning pics: