Claire and Amy are two young ladies from the city of Leeds, in fair old Mother England. Claire has been doing the Open Water course with me for the past four days, so she knows me and everyone else in the crew. Her friend Amy declined to partake in the diving — "it's not my thing", she said — however, this hasn't stopped her from getting in on the social side of Ban's, so we all know her as well. Lovely girls, and they've been here in southern Thailand so long, and their tan is so dark, that they're looking less English every day.
Chris is a tall, long-haired, opinionated lad from Manchester, that great urban centre of northern England. He's one of my comrades in the Open Water course that I'm currently doing: and like me, he's finding diving to be challenging yet rewarding. Chris has a wicked sense of humour; but what makes me crack up everytime he speaks, more than anything, is his positively kick-a$$ super-strength Manchester accent. Chris is here in Thailand for a while — and if he likes it enough, he may just spend the majority of his Thai time right here on Ko Tao.
Dex and Jasper are yet more Dutch people in Thailand: two old mates from back home, who are here on holiday to enjoy the beaches and to soak up the sun. They're part of my class in the Open Water course that I'm doing, here at Ban's — and they're great blokes. Quite fond of Caroline, too: but then again, who isn't? I went diving with these guys during my course; and they then went on to do the 2-day advanced course after we were finished.
Alex is a dutch bloke, who's currently studying finance and economics at university. Caroline is a half-Swedish, half-French girl (she's lived in Sweden since age 12), who works as a secretary back home, and who's here in Thailand for a one-month holiday. I met these two great people on the bus to Chumphon (very early this morning), and I stayed with them on the ferry to Ko Tao. The three of us ended up sticking very close to each other, for almost a week on Ko Tao — we signed up for our dive course together, and the rest is history.
Mark's a chatty bloke whom I ended up sitting next to, during this evening's long bus ride from Chiang Mai down to Bangkok. Mark's an Englishman; and like myself, he's also a seasoned traveller of South America. So the two of us had a good ol' chinwag on the bus, sharing our (all-too-similar) stories and reminiscences of backpacking in the Latin World. Sadly, from Bangkok Mark's headed out of Thailand: his plan is to gradually make his way home over the next few months, by way of India and various other countries.
These two girls, and myself, all met each other randomly (and all at exactly the same time), in the staircase of my guesthouse in Chiang Mai today. Adi is an Israeli girl who works full-time for a non-profit organisation back home (and who lives on that organisation's kibbutz), and who's currently volunteering here in northern Thailand. Maria's a physiotherapist from the city of Graz, in south-east Austria — I didn't make it there back in December, but by Maria's accounts I should have. Maria was volunteering in a remote community up in Nepal, and now she's cruising around Thailand on a motorbike.
I've met some insanely adventurous travellers in my time — but Sonny has got to be one of the maddest. Sonny's an English lad who's off for a year, and who's planning on doing the complete Central Asia and Middle East tour: among his intended destination countries are Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Jordan and Yemen. Like myself, Sonny's well-read and opinionated in the areas of history and politics: this was a big reason why we clicked from day one, and why we never seem to run out of conversation topics. Along with Marie and Claire, I hung out with Sonny for most of my time in Pai. Assuming he survives his pioneering travels, I hope to see him again one day.
These two Dutch boys were part of the super-friendly crew that kept me company, during this morning's road trip to Pai. They're two guys who are friends from back home, and who are taking a little summer break in-between their studies. For most of my time here in Pai, I kept bumping into them again and again: and each time that I saw them, both myself and them were ever more wasted.
Marie and Claire are two girls that I met on the bus to Pai this morning, and they're two great examples of encounters that you can't help but feel have something to do with fate. They're also both travelling alone; and like myself, neither of them has any particular plans for what they want to do here in Pai (apart from hanging out and seeing what all the fuss is about). Marie's a real estate agent from England, and Claire's a marketing manager from the USA. I ended up hanging out, riding bikes, and drinking a few nights away with these great ladies — when I think of Pai, I'll think of them.
Of the 15 folks (including myself) that comprised my group during the Doi Inthanon trek, four others were native English speakers. The Pom couple are from fair London, and they've lived in the Canary Islands of Spain for several years, where they mainly worked in bars and partied in-between. The Canadian couple are a sweet pair from Winnipeg, which they describe as being "right in the middle of Canada", far from the big centres on both coasts.