I am still in London but already half away from England it seems. I’m sitting in the Thai embassy, waiting to collect my two-month visa for the first station of my journey. The ‘trip of awesomeness’ as I call it…
Four months, four countries. First, two months in Thailand for the Asia Media Summit, primary research on Public Service Broadcasting and natural disasters for my M.A. and PhD and a bit of interning for the Thai Public Broadcasting Service.
After this, China for two weeks of meeting friends, eating lots of food (I actually made a list of restaurants I must eat at) and stacking up on Chinese spices.
In Beijing I am fulfilling a long dream of mine, which is travelling, at least a part, of the trans-Siberian railway. So from Beijing it is off to Ulan Baater, the capital of Mongolia. After around two weeks in Mongolia I’m hopping back on the trans-sib to visit, once again, the wonderful city of Ulan-Ude in Siberia, where I will be teaching German at the Buryat state university for one month before returning to Europe.
So here I am, at the prep stage. Sitting in a small basement room in South Kensington. There is the obligatory photo of the Thai king and queen on the wall and a few info books on how amazing Thailand is (as if they needed to tell us that).
Around me are beer-bellied English men with petite Thai women in high heels, backpack travellers that already look rugged as if they had slept on a few beaches in England to prepare their trip, their eyes full of eagerness to find the one remote beach that no other foreign traveller has set foot on, experience the ‘true’ rather than the touristy Thailand.
A few other travellers that don’t immediately fall into any category are there too, but a lot of them fit neatly into the small-minded stereotyped boxes of my tired mind (I got up at 5.30 this morning, so please excuse my lack of open-mindedness). I myself am in a rugged pair of jeans, typing away on a MacBook Air after putting aside my John Steinbeck book. I guess people are trying to figure out whether to put me into the hippie backpacker or pretentious young entrepreneur drawer.
Ten Minutes after the handing out of passports to the travel hungry hordes of foreigners is supposed to begin, a bored looking Thai lady starts taking transparent little pink paper slips and handing out passports with shiny new visas in return, repeatedly reminding the happy recipients they should check if this really is their passport. The monotony of her work seems to have sucked out most human emotions and leaves her face with a blank expression that is far away from any western media produced ‘happy Thai personality’ picture.
Another ten minutes and I exchange my little pink paper slip against my passport- a great feeling. It’s like being reunited with an old friend. Of course the Thai embassy, just as any embassy I’ve encountered put their one page visa on some random middle page, so that there will be blank pages left at the end of this passports life. Oh well, such is the life of a regularly travelling passport and the shininess of the Thai passport full of promises of sun, massages, nightly market food and fresh coconut juice hugs me like a warm ocean wave.