Two of the people on the Doi Inthanon trek with me, Linus and his friend are a pair of young Swedish friends. I can't remember the friend's name; but I remember Linus, of course, because of that name's fame. One of these guys looks pretty Swedish; but the other is black as can be, and is clearly not of Swedish ancestry! These two guys are nice enough, although they're not the most talkative pair — and they prefer to speak to each other in Swedish, than to talk to the rest of the group in English (unlike most Swedish people I've met on this trip).
The dark horse of today's cooking class, this quiet and rather awkward young English guy came by himself and said very little. I talked to him a bit, and discovered that he's been in Thailand for some time, and that his passion is Muay Thai (Thai boxing) — a gruesome sport that makes its Western equivalent look like a pillow-fight (strange, as it's quite incongrous with the otherwise peaceful and friendly nature of Thai people). The English boxer has been to several of the infamous Muay Thai training camps — they admit keen tourists at some — and although he hasn't tried a proper fight yet, he claims that it's a great sport and that it's very fulfilling. I say "each to his own" — personally, I'd rather eat a raw cockroach than even watch one of those games, let alone participate.
Two of my buddies during today's cooking class were a couple from Spain. They didn't speak much English (particularly the girl) — and even less Thai — so they were relieved to find someone else in the group whom they could communicate with. That person being yo, por supuesto. Speaking English here in Thailand is pretty much essential — so I guess they speak enough to get by. The guy is true-blue Spanish; but the girl's originally una colombiana. They're here in Thailand for a short winter vacation, before they head back to Europe. They did a reasonable job at following the all-English cooking instructions today; although I did help them a bit, by translating the odd word now and then.
Camilla's an Aussie girl from a small country town about a ½ hour drive west of Brissie. Her father is from Finland: and you can tell, too, what with her blonde-haired, blue-eyed, hawk-faced complexion. She works in the town as a high-school English and maths teacher, although she now lives in Brisbane proper. Camilla is also a vegetarian — something that's surprisingly hard in Thailand, because despite being Buddhist, the Thais can't get enough of their meat and seafood (particularly pork and shrimp). Camilla was one of my classmates in today's cooking class.
I found a little semi-street-vendor restaurant for lunch today, in downtown Chiang Mai, where they serve a delicious 20B Pad Thai. When I sat down and tucked in, a local kid sat down at the table next to me. He indicated that he was hungry and that he hadn't had lunch, and he asked me for 20B. I sympathised with the poor kid being hungry; but I know the rule: "if someone says they're hungry, don't give 'em money — give 'em food." So instead of giving him the 20B, I gave it to the restaurant lady, and asked her to cook up another Pad Thai for the kid. He didn't seem very happy about this — clearly he wasn't hungry, and he wanted the money for something else — but stuff that, if he wants lunch then a plate of noodles couldn't do him any harm.
Jutta is a solo traveler like myself, from the teeny European nation of Slovenia. I met the bloke this evening at Bangkok's northern bus terminal, and we found ourselves travelling on the same overnight bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. When we reached Chiang Mai, we both checked in to the same dump of a guesthouse (until we got sick of it :P). Jutta's backpacking in Thailand for several weeks, and in greater south-east Asia for a few months. Nice guy, and very easy-going.
Along with various other new arrivals, one of the people that I met at the much-frequented Kabul bar this evening was a guy from Sicily! This fellow's in his early 30s: and although all his family are from Sicily, he's now living and working in Ireland. He was very impressed when I told him about the Great Sicilian Ride that I did; and he was even more impressed with the fact that I knew where his home village was! He said he was from "near Caltanissetta"; to which I replied: "ah, Caltanissetta! It must also be near Pietraperzia, and Piazza Armerina — I rode through those places." The Sicilian came with us to the Flamenco encore this evening.
There aren't nearly as many Aussies here at Kabul as there are Brazilians, but there are still quite a few. The two that I got to know the best were Deanna and Jenny, two Brisbane girls with whom I'm sharing my dorm room. Deanna and Jenny both have a biting sense of humour, and they're both here for a short vacation, before they do "that Aussie thing" and head over to England in search of some long-term work. There are also a few other random Aussie guys staying here, and I've seen them down at the bar on most nights. There are some nationalities where no matter where you go, you're never alone — and mine is sure as hell one of them.
There are an awful lot of Brazilians staying here at Kabul with me. There are four of them that I'm sharing my dorm room with. There's the guy that I went exploring Barcelona this morning. And there are countless other little groups of them, that can be found hanging out in the bar on most evenings, or chatting in odd corners and in the hallways. They talk to each other in Portuguese, but most of them also speak excellent English (plus a little bit of dodgy Spanish). And all of them, without exception, have made it their personal mission to show even Barcelona how to party — because no-one parties like a Brasilero.
Along with the smoking Finns, two other great people that I met this evening at Kabul were the Chilean boys down in the bar. These guys — from Santiago, of course — are here in Europe for a quick holiday, before heading back home to their work and their studies. I haven't met all that many South American fellow travellers here in Europe, and it was a pleasant surprise to find these guys here. Sadly, being from Chile and all, they speak Español Chileno — which is officially the world's worst dialect of Spanish, and which I understand about as well as Mongolian.