– Hi, I am Fred. I’m Canadian.
His shirt was green as our bed curtains in a night train to Chiang Mai.
– Hi, I am Ivana and I am from Croatia. Do you know where that is?
– Oh, I know. I’ve never been in Eastern Europe though – Fred said.
Stranger in the night
After two weeks in Bangkok, it was time to leave. The Road called me. And the Road knows. When the boat started moving, my heart started blossoming. I was waiting for some kind of excitement but all I could acknowledge was calmness. Bangkok wasn’t the place that could silence my longing for what never quiets – the wanderlust. Will Chiang Mai succeed in this game of taming, I asked myself.
“I love to travel – Fred started talking. – But I won’t be able to sleep. Trains, buses, planes.. I never sleep”.
His movements were slow. Gracious. I could see that his eyes have seen more than he remembers, whilst his skin was touched by the places I can still only dream of.
North is always a good idea
It was Sunday and tuk tuk driver got me really fast to the Hua Lamphong railway station. He asked for 100 baht. I don’t know whether it was expensive or not. I would give him 200 just to help me escape the city.
Long snake was already there. Chiang Mai. 7:35 PM. Seat number 17. Upper bunk.
It seems that taking a train to the traveler’s nest in the north of Thailand is something every traveler through Southeast Asia has to do. It’s legendary, some say. It’s magical and always something you weren’t expecting happens. Sounds great, but all I wanted was to crawl into my bed and fall asleep. I felt goofy and couldn’t decipher my feelings. Beds weren’t prepared yet, so I looked outside.
Then Fred showed up. I wasn’t sure whether it was just a polite chit chat or Magic has decided to work for me. He started describing all the beautiful places he had been to. By the way he was talking it felt as Ngorongoro crater will start spitting fire in front of me.
“Forget about 5 star hotels! They all look the same! There are hotels in Africa where, when you wake up and peek through the window, you see animals! Lake is just below and animals are there! They are wild and free! Nothing is fake. But it costs a lot of money.”
And Fred has money. He’s a fashion designer, a 60-year old madly in love with life. But in this conversation the “old” one was me. In a slowly moving train questions were popping in my head. Here I am, finally living “the dream”, finally off on the long awaited journey, and I felt somehow unsatisfied.
Traveling is about solitude
No one ever tells you that real travel is about the solitude and hours spent by yourself and it just gets worse if you’re an over-thinker. And guess what? I am.
Fred was the one mostly talking. Imagine that picture. Me in my red tights and flip flops listening carefully to a super successful gentlemen. A world traveler. A millionaire who could afford himself everything.
-“I like to keep low profile when traveling” – Fred said and I burst into laugh.
At least when traveling he can take a break from fashion.
I was feeling kind of sad. Maybe he noticed because he said he knows that “life in Eastern European countries” can be tough.
“Nothing comes easy. Nothing comes over night. In the beginning I had to work a lot. But if you live in a way that you do what you love, success is guaranteed. You have to work hard for yourself because no one will work for you, instead of you! And only then you will reap the fruit of your labor!”
He read me like an open book. A flood of emotions come over me as he continued:
“Never stop dreaming. Never!! Always hold on to something!” – he began to shout, then silenced his voice “You will be fine” – he said it sweetly.
Gifts from a stranger
Was he sent to dispel my doubts, I wondered. Is there an invisible place where invisible travel guardians are in charge of young wandering souls?
“You see, a lot of people has resources and free time, but traveling isn’t for everyone. But if you are that person, then you never get sick of it! You only want more! And the best way to travel is on your own. Though people are important”.
“I believe we hide and
Next morning I got up before Fred did. I was happy to see him sleeping. I sat down to the first available window. Palm trees. Only palm trees. Finally I escaped the city.
“So this is where you hide. Let’s drink coffee” – Fred said.
We drank coffee and enjoyed the sun on our face. Life was good.
– Fred, last night I wrote a story about you – I told him.
He started laughing.
– Only facts Ivana, put only facts. And a little bit of magic.
Ten minutes to Chiang Mai. Ten minutes to Chiang Mai, the voice was telling through the speakerphone.
“I have something for you. You know, I always have two bags when traveling. One is with my personal belongings and another one is with presents for the people I meet on the road. I don’t see the point in giving money, so I fill my bag with branded stuff, like expensive perfumes and clothing” – Fred said while going through his bag.
He got a perfect gift for me. He knew I don’t need expensive clothes or any other materialistic thing. He gave me Mackintosh’s Toffee chocolates. I started laughing as it really was a perfect gift for me – choc addict!
“Ivana, just go with the flow”.
These was his last words to me after we shook hands.
The train stopped and everyone went their own way. Night train ride wasn’t that bad after all, right?