I’ve made so many friends on the road I am starting to forget the names (not the faces!) of the people I travelled with in the beginning. Luckily I foresaw this problem from the start and every week, I would write down the names of the people I met that week in my diary. Up until now I counted 217 people, 2 cats and 1 dog. And these are only the people I spent some time with or at least had an interesting conversation with that lasted long enough for us to exchange names and often contact details (apart from the pets of course). And I might have forgotten to write down some of the people so the actual number is even bigger. Of course, meeting new people from all over the world, each with a different and interesting story and view of our world, is one of the best things of travelling. But it is also one of the things that cost a lot of energy and gets tougher when you’re on the road for a couple of months. You get to a point where you get tired of telling your story and answering (and asking) the same questions over and over… Where are you from, how long have you been travelling for, where have you been, how old are you, what are you doing at home…? I think every traveller agrees that you sometimes just want to hide in your dorm, being anti-social and maybe being sad and missing your friends from home: people who already know you so you don’t have to put as much energy in getting to know each other or trying to leave a good impression.
Luckily sometimes, you meet some people you can get along with really well, and you get to travel with them for a bit. Or you meet up with them later in your trip again. These are moments, days or sometimes even weeks you don’t have to worry as much about making new friends, because you already have ‘old’ friends around you. While travelling alone you can be kind of picky with who you hang out with, because you don’t ‘owe’ anyone anything. This way you sometimes find people you could be best friends with, if you would live in the same city. After a week it feels like you’ve known them forever. Although I would love to write about all these kind of people I met on the road, I am only going to write about 2 encounters now, because it fits in the timeline and the story of my journey.
Right before my meditation retreat (and the start of my burn-out) I met a couple of really nice people in the town of Pai in North Thailand. All hanging out and drinking in the common area of our hostel, I became friends with a Dutch girl and some Swedish backpackers. It turned out that the Swedish girl from Malmö (Selma) was going to be in Chiang Mai and Bangkok around the same time as I after my retreat and a Dutch girl, Marleen (who just got kind of dumped by her travelbuddy) was going to be in Malaysia in the same week as me as well. I didn’t know yet how perfect this timing would be until I got back from my retreat and started suffering from anxiety and having trouble sleeping. At least I didn’t have to put any energy in making new friends. Because being alone with my mind was kind of horrible at this point. So from Pai until I set of from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, I was kind of ‘settled’, being able to lean on to others people’s company and energy. This might have been the reason I felt so horrible in Singapore and didn’t know if I was actually going to make it to Bali.
Anyways, with Selma I celebrated Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai. Which meant basically getting wet by all the water guns and buckets people carry around in the streets. During Songkran (the Thai New Year), the whole inner city turns into one big water street party. Street vendors make money everywhere selling water guns, buckets and plastic phone covers. We just went out for some food and maybe some beers but quickly decided to join the party because it just looked too much fun. All the bars where pumping loud music and pickups with Thai teenagers dancing and spraying and shooting on everyone slowly passed by like a carnival stoet. Even though temperatures were high, april is the hottest month, you actually got cold from being soaked and in the front line all the time (to make it extra fun, most pick-up trucks have giant buckets (like rain barrels) with ice-cold water in the back of the truck, where the kids fill their guns…). So we decided to go in the main ‘clubbing’ area where there were al the bars were having great parties with all different types of music to choose from. It was a great night, ending up in a house/techno bar where at the end I think only Dutch people were having a rave.
The night bus to Bangkok was the best one I’ve ever been in. Every seat had their own tv screen like in an airplane and the chairs could be reclined so far I actually think I slept for an hour or so. Also, we kept on being given drinks and snacks during the night. They even brought tea and coffee in the morning. In Bangkok we didn’t do much, everything was closed anyways because of the New Year and we were both pretty wrecked. When Selma left for the Philippines I decided to stay in Bangkok a little longer (instead of going to a half-moon party in Koh Phagnan) and meet up with the other Swedish guys who also happened to be there.
After a long night and day of travelling from Bangkok to Malaysia, I met Marleen again in the hostel we booked in George Town, Penang Island. George Town looks kind of European almost. It’s a colonial town with influences from everywhere and a choice of Asian food which is more diverse than I’ve seen anywhere in Asia. Malaysia in general appeared to me as a more multicultural society than Thailand. Most people are Muslim but there are also a large indian population, so you would see a lot of Hindu, Buddhist and other Indian religious Temples as well. Marleen and I made use of the widely available Indian food everywhere because it’s just YUMMY. Except for souvenir shops and food there is also a lot of street art in Geore Town. Nice to walk around, pretty much the only thing I felt like doing.
Selma gave us a very good tip about an Air BnB we could book when we were in Kuala Lumpur. A fairly cheap room in a residence where we had free access to an infinity pool (with the best view of KL) and a gym. They also had a small supermarket and our host happened to have a catering service so we could get cheap food made at our place for lunch and dinner. A lot of people asked me about this place, so here it is: search for ‘Regalia Residence’ in KL on Air BnB and you will find more people renting out their apartments our rooms, some for really decent prices. For me, staying in this apartment was a good excuse to not do much except for enjoying the beautiful view from the rooftop. With the occasional sounds of the city like sirens, the passing sky train or metro or a call for prayer from one of the mosques We did have a party night or two as well since we felt obliged to celebrate the Dutch King’s Birthday (or we just found an excuse to party). Since the bar street has ‘ladies night’ every day of the week, as a girl, if you want you can always drink for free when you party in KL. You are stuck with with either cuba libre, gin tonic and vodka lime for the rest of the night though.
The hardest thing about making new friends is having to say goodbye. Over and over again. But the positive side is that if I make it back to Europe, I have a lot of friends (and places!) to visit 😉
HUGE LOVE for all the friends I made on the road <3