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.
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.
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 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.
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 :)