July 21, 2017

By Amanda Ruesch

It’s 3 a.m., and I am currently sitting on a wooden bench at a train station somewhere in southern Thailand. I’m blinking blearily and looking around the empty platform dimly lit by several overhanging bulbs. I think I’m in Chumphon. I hope I’m in Chumphon.

Train travel is one of the best (and easiest!) ways to get around the country.

I see a woman handing out little slips of paper and approach her, hoping to find some information about buying a bus/ferry ticket package. Just as I expected, she only speaks Thai, and we embarrassedly try to communicated with each other in my broken Thai and with a lot of gesturing hands. Koh Tao, I keep telling her. I am trying to get to Koh Tao. She nods her head, walking away talking to herself in Thai. Kappunka, I yell after her. Thank you!  I really hope she can help me or at least tell me where I am.    

Koh Tao is a small island in the Gulf of Thailand, near to Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan.

I’m trying to get to Koh Tao, a small island in the Gulf of Thailand known for its diving. I’ve spent the last month and a half as a Public Health in Emergency intern at the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center in Bangkok, Thailand. The upcoming weekend is a national holiday celebrating the King’s birthday, or Thai Father’s Day is what I’ve been told. I have four days off and am looking forward to spending all of it scuba diving. Of course, I decided to buy my train ticket at the station in Bangkok, didn’t actually look at my ticket until I got on the train, and ended buying a ticket to Surat Thani, an extra three to four hours south of where I needed to go. Thankfully, an older Thai couple noticed my confusion when I finally glanced at my ticket and motioned they’d wake me up at the Chumphon stop.

Hence, why I am now sitting alone, on a bench, surrounded by mosquitoes.

The Thai flag: red is said to symbolize the blood of life, white the purity of the Buddhist faith, and blue the monarchy.

The same lady from earlier approaches me about an hour later, with a cup of coffee in hand. She’s rattling off something in Thai, and I catch the words Koh Tao and hok, or the number 6. She gives me a sticker, a piece of paper and the coffee. Written on the paper in English is information for the bus/ferry that will get me to Koh Tao and the time the office opens, 6 a.m. I smile up at her, fold my hands into a wai and say thank you as many times as possible. Kappunka, kappunka! She laughs, pats my shoulder and walks away. I take a sip of the hot coffee.

Chali (the pup!) hung out with me during my final lunch in Koh Tao :)

It’s 4 a.m., I’m sitting on a wooden bench at a train station in somewhere in southern Thailand, and things are looking up.

While my internship offered me a lot, I learned the most during my solo travels. The most important lesson? Don’t be afraid to take risks and ask for help. You’d be surprised by what could happen :)

Sunset views from Koh Tao :)

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