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Same Same but Different

Chang Mai->Lampang-> Bangkok
4/22/08: 

There was no need to rise early today but my eyes popped open along with the roosters warming up their vocal cords. It was too early for breakfast so packed my bags until chow time. I was happy to return to Chang Mai to take care of my unfinished business. Once again, I am headed back to Bangkok for I don’t how many-th time to meet up with my friend Anne. I plan to hang out long enough in Bangkok to see her before heading out to find a sandy beach.

At breakfast, I contemplated “What’s next?” Which of the beautiful islands that dot the coast of Thailand should I visit? Perhaps after I could go to Cambodia since I had only quickly passed through to get to Vietnam. Just like last night, while I was lost in contemplation, Jan joined me at my table.

As we ate breakfast we talked. Somehow the subject of where to travel next ended up having me “confess” the story about my recent break-up. Jan’s face lit up, “Now, it all makes sense!” This statement confused me, “What do you mean?” It was his turn to “confess” he was having a hard time figuring me out. Apparently, I had been sending him contradictory signals. Knowing my situation made him feel better. Jan joked about being worried he was losing his ability to charm beautiful women. Apparently some of the signals he had been trying to send me went over my head. “Looks like I am going to have to step up my game! Or actually learn how to play the game. It’s been so long since I’ve been single!” He laughed, “Keren, you are hot! Women like you do not need game. They just need to pay more attention to the handsome man that is trying to work his game!”

A tuk-tuk driver came in looking for Jan to whisk him off to the airport. Sadly it was time to part ways again. He wrote down his e-mail and extended an open invitation to visit him in Germany. We shared a long hug before he headed out to the awaiting chariot. I’d love to go to Germany but now is not the time. How could I be so clueless? It was for the best. I was more than happy to just have a handsome face to distract me for several days.

Soon it was my time to take off. When I arrived at the train station, it was a pleasant surprise to see the train already waiting at the assigned platform since the majority of Thai trains have pulled in late. The heat and humidity in Chang Mai had not improved and felt like I was stuck inside the navel of a sweaty fat man. I desperately needed to cool down and thanked God for having a 1st Class ticket with air-conditioned car I hopped onto the train early to soak up the cool air in the car. Paying extra for a higher class ticket: totally worth it!

A long train ride is not the best place to escape thoughts because there is too much time to sit and think. To distract myself from unpleasant thoughts, I cracked open a book hoping for a good diversion but I was not into the story yet. My mind wandered back to Alex’s e-mails and I got upset again. This is only the beginning. I could see the storm approaching from off-shore. Once Alex realized the separation was permanent rather than temporary, the outright war will begin.

The french couple from the trek were in the same car. I tried to chat with them for a bit but it was difficult due to my limited French and their limited English vocabulary. Thanks to a full bladder, I was able to break free from the awkwardly strained conversation and they moved to their assigned seat further back in the cabin.

All I wanted for now was some silence. An old lady came to sit in her assigned seat across from me. Her sweet smile and expression indicated she spoke no English. I was glad to not have to converse with her. Although we did not share a common language, we shared the common interest of staring outside the window and pointing out interesting things. Of course there were more things that I found amusing but she seemed to be entertained by my amusement much like the young child pointing out “new” discoveries to the confusion of its parents.

The train pulled into the Lampang station 2 hours after leaving Chang Mai and did not move for 2 hours. Heavy rain was coming down. Therefore, I could not roam far even if I wanted to explore. To stretch my legs, I walked up and down the same platform I had stood on 5 months ago. The columns lining the platform were now all a different color. While waiting for the train the previous time, Alex & I watched 2 men starting to paint them. Now I was able to return to see the finished product several months later.

The color of the columns is not the only thing that has changed since I was here last. I have changed. I am a different person. Of course the obvious, I am now single but there are so many other ways I have evolved. I feel like I’ve grown more as a person during the past 7 months of travel than I did in my entire 20’s. I’ve also noticed how Bangkok and Chang Mai have changed since my last visit. The quote: “No [wo]man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and [s]he is not the same [wo]man” is so true. Or as the t-shirts you can buy on Khao San Road in Bangkok or the Night Market in Chang Mai read: “Same Same but Different.”

Even as I boarded the train again, my state of mind had changed. Earlier my mind had been swirling with unpleasant thoughts and memories in regard to Alex and our relationship. Lampang was one of Alex and my favorite cities in Thailand filled with so many happy moments and one of the few places Alex & I did not have any arguments or drama. Remembering the good times reset my brain to let the positive thoughts and memories flow.

Climbing up to my top bunk to settle in for the night, I remembered my first overnight trip in a 3rd class car trying to figure out a way to sleep in a crowded car sitting on a wooden bench without air-conditioning. Tonight, I slept soundly in my 1st class bunk on a soft mattress with a fan gently blowing on me.

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