• Posted on May 21st, 2010

    Written by S.O.O.P Crew

     For 14 Random Facts about Jaime & 9 Random Facts about Martin Check out our About Us page.

    How Jaime met Martin…

    “Yes, OK, I may be staying on the sleaziest street in Bangkok, but how was I to know just how sleazy it was until I got here? And what do I care? I have my own room. I’m alone now, but I’ll meet people. That couple looks nice. Sure, he’s 30 years her senior, but they look like they’re having fun. Hm, maybe too much fun. Well, there’s gotta be someone here worth talking to. Finding them is the first thing. Smiling is second. I have to remember to smile. None of this frown-when-I’m-thinking stuff. This is important.”

    Thoughts of this nature ran through my head on my first night in Thailand, five years ago. I had just left London, fresh from a job as an (overworked) au pair. I was on my own for two months with a plan to travel the classic SE Asia circuit – Thailand to Cambodia, then up the length of Vietnam, through northern Laos and return to Thailand.

    I had three days in Bangkok before traveling to Cambodia. In those three days I met exactly three people. Two were the couple I mentioned above. They kindly let me join them for dinner, though I was clearly the third wheel and too naive to see that. The third person was a fellow solo traveler – the only one I could see not chasing Thai women (I really was staying in the wrong part of town). He was intensely scribbling in his journal when I approached. Though he looked very busy, I didn’t care. I’d just spent two days wandering around the city not speaking to anyone and feeling in need of a conversation. He was nice enough, telling me what to bring on my bus ride into Cambodia, but the conversation died shortly after that. I left him wondering if backpackers were a hard bunch to break into. I was certainly having no luck with them.

    My minibus to Cambodia was scheduled for the crack of dawn the next morning. I was up even earlier, deciding what was best to wear on my first big bus ride, repacking my bag, and double checking that I’d bought all the items on the journal scribbler’s list. The minibus arrived right on schedule with not a soul on board. OK – this was getting out of hand. I could have written the Mute Traveler’s Guide to Thailand at that point. Was I really meant to ride for 18 hours without anyone to talk to?

    With no one to ask but my driver, who pretended that he didn’t understand me, I threw by backpack in the back, carefully stashed my goodie bag under my seat and settled in for a long haul. Ten minutes later, after taking a route I was sure couldn’t possibly be the way out of the city, we pulled up in front of the Ambassador Hotel.

    “Ah ha. So, we’re picking more people up at their hotels? OK. I get it. It’s early and, well, I’m sure you know it’s early – you’re up too. I just really didn’t want to drive alone to…” I trailed off.

    The driver smiled at me and hopped out to help the new passengers with their bags. Meanwhile, I ran through my short list of greetings that I thought sounded particularly cool: “Word.” or “Hey-ya” or the always popular “Hey party people!” A last resort popped into my head and (sadly) out of my mouth as soon as the first person climbed into the bus.

    “Welcome to the minibus!” Feeling like the world’s biggest tool, I tried to smile my way past it, hoping he didn’t understand. Maybe he didn’t speak English? He was cute, though.

    “Well, thank you.”

    Damn. He did speak English, and from the sound of it, pretty well too. Quick, I had to think of something. Hm, maybe I could offer him something from my goodie bag. The scribbler had assured it’s contents were paramount for traveling long distances. I would probably impress my new friend.

    “My name’s Jaime. Are you hungry? I have some snacks.”

    “Oh, um, sure. I’ll take a look. I’m Martin”

    I’d heard it was good practice to repeat a person’s name three times after meeting them. Since he was on the way to being my first friend on this trip, I put the theory into practice. The problem was, I didn’t remember that trick until a few minutes had passed. “Ok, his name is Nigel – Nigel, Nigel, Nigel.” Where I got Nigel from, I’ll never know. It would be his name in my travel journal until I heard him introduce himself to someone else, four days later.

    “I heard this stuff is great for traveling. Have you ever tried Flossy Pork?” I’d pulled out the kilo I’d bought the day before. It contained a substance that looked like meat disguised as cotton candy.

    “What? No. It looks vile. Let’s try it.”

    And so it began. We rode together for the next 18 hours, exchanging stories, playing games (my favorite consisted of a complicated point system for getting people outside the bus to wave at you – a monk riding a bicycle with an IV in his arm trumped all), and laughing. Mostly I remember laughing.

    Exploring Angkor Wat in 2004

    We explored Angkor Wat together for the next five days. He dazzled me with tales of his adventures – he was on a land-route tour of SE Asia from Australia en route to China. We joked about how many children we would have together in the future – fifteen was the final count, I think. A shopping trip to the local bazaar gave us the opportunity for an impromptu ring exchange. They were cheap reed rings, but I told him that if I was having fifteen of his children, he would have to make an honest woman of me.

    We parted ways after a five life changing days. His final words? “I’ll see you again, somewhere on the planet.”

    Five years later – following a two year separation, international commuting, a real ring exchange in front of our closest family and friends, American immigration (don’t even get me started on that one) and very, very frugal living in San Francisco, we’re making good on that promise.

    How Martin met Jaime…

    I had just spent a few months in Western Australia, mostly lazing around in the Kimberly region. My plan was to go back to Sweden, and I was determined to drag my return trip out as long as possible. For starters, I had decided to travel up the Malay peninsula by train, after which I was going to head up to China and make my way to Beijing. There, I hoped to catch a train to the European part of Russia and then on to Helsinki and Stockholm. For now, I was treating myself to a nice hotel in Bangkok – I felt a bit weary after sloshing around in Cattle Class trains for a week (I later learned that traveling in 1st class is not that expensive around those parts).

    I recall sitting in a dingy internet shop when a whim struck me: I should stop by and have a look at Cambodia. After all, I was really close and I wasn’t in a particular hurry anywhere. A visit to the travel agent next door informed me that it would be pretty inexpensive, so I decided to have an espresso and read the Bangkok Post first, and then make up my mind. Two gulps of coffee and a half-hearted attempt at reading the paper later I had made my choice: of course I had to go to Cambodia.

    Twenty-four hours later, I was sitting in the lobby of the Ambassador Hotel, waiting to get picked up by the shuttle. A British Vietnam war veteran was talking into my left ear, and a big, slightly damaged guy from New Jersey was droning on and on at my other side. The Jersey dude (Tom) was doing what’s known as a ‘visa run’ – going across the border for ten minutes to renew his visa. Half an hour later, while Tom was telling me a long-winded and pointless story about his fourth wife’s family in Chiang Mai, a bell boy showed up and told us that the bus service was there.

    Walking out through the front doors I had made up my mind to try to sit as far away from Tom as possible. The doors to the van slid open, and I was treated to a smile from a pretty, long-haired girl wearing weird green baggy pants. “Welcome to the Mini-bus”, she said in an unmistakeable American accent.

    I guess I’ve been on that mini-bus ever since.