This story starts walking down the streets of Chiang Mai with my new friends from the UK, all of us with a large beer in hand. What I assumed would be a fun last night out in Chiang Mai, a few drinks, new bar, good food and possibly a ladyboy show, turned into a pivotal moment shaping the next few weeks of my travels and possibly more.
After that beer and a few more with dinner at the night market, the four of us made our way to ‘Bus Bar’ a place I stumbled across reading a few travel blogs and I somehow agreed to sharing a bottle of Sam Seong. Obviously by this time I had a good buzz going which, for me, means that I’m in the mood to make new friends, so that’s exactly what I set out to do. I had noticed a pair of Koreans seated behind me and had the sudden urge to practice my Korean skills. I was shy but my friend Simon gave me the push I needed and minutes later I was seated with them in deep conversation.
They were equally shocked and relieved by my ability to speak Korea, both claiming they know little English, but I was having fun. It turns out the two of them, Heewhon and Hyeongmu, were both traveling solo and had only just met that week in Chiang Mai. I should no longer be surprised by how small this world is, given the random connections I’ve made in the last few years, but I was amazed when Hyeongmu told me he is from Yangmok, a tiny town next to the tiny town I first lived in Korea. Similarly Heewon is from Suncheon which is not far from Mokpo, the town my best friend Loudine lives in, and where I’d be a few weeks later. Unfortunately our time was cut short when my travel (and drinking) buddies wanted to leave, but we exchanged Kakao Id’s (they again surprised that I had this messaging app) and hoped we’d meet again.
Fast forward two weeks, after my volunteer teaching experience and Heewon’s trip to Laos, to Bangkok. I had been there a few days just hanging out so when Heewon arrived on Thursday I was ready for some friend time. We made plans to meet Friday evening and venture to Khaosan Road together, being the tourist ‘hot spot’ and all we both felt obliged to go. Despite only having the 30 minutes in Chiang Mai and a few Kakao chats as our foundation, meeting again felt totally natural, even if I did have to push my Korean ability.
Here’s where the world really shrink though, seated at a roadside restaurant waiting to order dinner I saw Heewon’s eyes light up and when I turned around to see what sparked this I saw Hyeongmu with an equal look of surprise on his face. Sure, we were in the tourist heart of Bangkok, but still, it’s a huge city with thousands of people and yet somehow the three of us found each other. The more I travel the smaller and smaller this world gets, also the invasion of the internet and technology into our daily lives shrinks it even further. As we spent the evening together sharing more stories and hopes for future meet-ups (next time in Korea?) I was grateful that I mustered the courage to go talk to them in Chiang Mai.
High on the tourist track for a reason, home of good food (mostly) happy people, rich history and culture. Thailand as many tourist soon learn is just easy. Easy to visit, easy to get around and even easier to stay.