Knock. Knock. Knock.

Bang! Bang Bang!

I woke up like many times before with no idea where I was. When you live a transient life, it can be very disorienting to wake up in the dark thinking your bed and room is oriented the same as it was last week – but its not.

I reached down with my right hand fumbling for a weapon near the bed, but all I could come up with was my IPOD which had fallen during the night.

Bang! Bang Bang!

It was coming from the door….the headphones were still in a tangled mess around my neck when I went to answer.

“Mister – your taxi is waiting – get up!”  In the blinding sunlight I recognized the Thai guy through the crack in the door (no luck finding my boxer shorts either) from reception at my guesthouse. Behind him stood a not-so-happy guy with crossed arms and a scowl…..

The taxi truck driver.

Suddenly I was aware that my hair looked like Einstein’s on a bad day and that it was 08:00am – the time I was supposed to have joined the load of people waiting in a truck out on the street destined for the pier to catch a 4 hour ferry back to Surat Thani on the mainland.  Just out of survival hope, I cast a glance over my shoulder to see if I could salvage the situation, but seeing my things unpacked and in disarray made my heart sink. It was a bust.

I mumbled an apology and told them that I would change my tickets for tomorrow.  The words of one of my favorite team leaders from my days in the ARMY came to mind “Play harder than anyone else, have your fun, but always be able to do your job the next day.”  Not this time – mission failed!

…..and so began what should have been my travel day from Ko Phangan back to Bangkok to catch my flight the next day. The fees for changing my tickets (thank God I had 1 buffer day before my flight) were a nice slap on the wrist – lesson learned.  I wasn’t sad long though, because without fail out here, everything happens for a reason.

Sure enough, my old Welsh friend Katie from Malaysia and Chiang Mai turned up on the island for my bonus last night beach party….our third chance meeting, and what fun!

Unfortunately she came stumbling in, looking like death with a temperature of 101F (promising me that it wasn’t Swine Flu), but with lots of sleep, pills, and wet rags we managed to break her fever just in time to hit the beach at night. She had not eaten for days but a Redbull bucket or two later and she was back to her old self…..are all Welsh people so hard core?

Regardless, I did what every traveler has learned to do over and over – take a bad situation (missed boat and train) and make it a fun memory.  Your sanity won’t last a month in developing countries if you don’t learn to roll with the punches and as they say in Thailand, keep “mai pen rai” (no worries / it doesn’t matter) as your overall attitude.

The following day, I managed to “do my job” and made my truck, boat, and overnight train back to Bangkok even after dancing on the beach until sunrise. In Bangkok, I grabbed a taxi from the train station to the airport and within a few hours I was on an AirAisa plane cutting through a clear sky to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Without doubt, KL has become my new base for Southeast Asia and I am quite comfortable getting around here now. It feels great to hit the ground and immediately know what to do in a city, and it gives a chance to help other travelers.

Keep it a secret, but KL, with its great mix of culture, close proximity to Indonesia and Thailand, and cheap AirAsia connections to London and everywhere else, is one of my top candidates for a place to live next year – I love this place in all its dirty charm, rats included!

I will be here for 4 days to do some last minute shopping, gorge myself on cheap Indian food, and to tell my new friends goodbye then I climb on a Korean Air flight which after 23 hours will put me within 10 minutes of my family’s house.  Its still a little surreal (and frightening) to think that in 5 days I will be standing in my hometown….yikes.  Lucky for me, it is Malaysia’s independence day here so there are some festivities as well as the Muslim fasting month, which I have never seen.

Do people get irritable when they cannot eat, drink, smoke, or have sex for 1 month?  I would probably guess a big “YES” but I’m going to find out!  🙂

Life is strange, beautiful, but good.