It all started with a delayed train, my mum and me huffing and puffing at the edge of the platform, squinting for a train that wasn’t in the distance. Usually this is a bad sign. Usually, any traveler would be well on their way to freaking out when the train is delayed by 8 minutes, then 9, then 11, then 13… It’s a tense moment. Luckily, neurotic that I am, I was still due to make it to Heathrow about 5 hours early. I know. I’m a nutter.
So it was a lovely surprise when our carriage became the cool kid social corner. I hadn’t even hit any hostels yet and here were some (interesting) friends already. A foxy older lady, classy in her faux fur coat (looking as if 101 Dalmatians might be stowed away in her bedroom…), and her son, asked if I was going on a day trip with my huge 15kg rucksack. I gave him a sarcy yes and that was it, we were committed to conversation for the whole journey, with the addition of a young musician (a trombone player, who tours Paris, China, Russia and lives in Waterloo. I could tell you many more things about him, about the other two as well, but let’s stick to the point…)
They were hilarious. Our genteel Cruella employed our young trombone player to entertain in her garden, telling us of a lovely band in South Africa (unexpectedly called ‘Malcolm and the boys’…) and just about everyone exchanged business cards. Suddenly Mr Trombone (James, it turns out) is jumping off the train. ‘I ballsed this right up, I’m on the wrong train’. We laughed him out of our lives forever (I’ll miss that boy, who lived in Somerset but grew up in Dorset).
We found out many many more details about the two friendly hangers on. Cruella’s poor son hadn’t made it to some of her dinner parties because he couldn’t find his cuff links (likely story, Frank, we’re not buying it) and we heard all about her son’s girlfriend in Thailand, lovely girl (‘not like the others, she’s educated’… I prayed she kept her voice down while we sat with her), who lost a child from a horrific heart attack. We really went deep (I know what you’re thinking but the train journey was actually only 20 minutes long).
We finally pulled into Cannon St, the end of the line.
‘Are you getting off here?’ Cruella asked.
‘We are too mum, unless you want to go back to Chislehurst.’ And then it clicked – they, like James, our other bizarre encounter of the day, were on the wrong train too.
There is nothing in this world better for chasing away some nerves than a good hard belly laugh, to get you through the hours at the airport, the check in desk, the dodgy barcode that won’t scan and the long queue at the gate. And there’s nothing like writing it down to get you through the plane journey, especially when it is delayed by nearly 2 hours, giving you minus 20 minutes to catch your connecting flight.
Luckily for me, aeroplanes have accelerators and I made it in time (with a bit of running and jostling people out the way…)
A bit of turbulence, sleeping through my third plane meal and a stolen blanket later and my flight was landing. Before I knew it I was in a taxi on my way to the hostel. And one of the first discoveries I’ve made about Bangkok? THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS ARE ALREADY UP. Turns out Christmas starts early no matter where you are…
And my next surreal encounter of the trip was with an adorable Korean girl in my dorm. All I can honestly tell you about her is that her name is Subin, she is travelling solo, she has fed elephants with bananas and she has two cameras (Polaroid and digital). A google translate app later and she had given me all the prices for the tours, tuktuks, trains and has even given me her blog address. What a sweetheart. She now also carries my face in her luggage.
And now I’m lying under a mosquito net that I halfheartedly attempted to hang up in a dark quiet room (my poor dorm mates have been trying to sleep since I got here). It’s been a long day. Time to lock my valuables away and not dream about poisonous spiders all night before some more strange and unpredictable encounters…
Feature photo credit: Ed Gregory