My journeys, and the people who made them special

This is my entry for Indiblogger’s Around The World With Expedia! contest, where the topic is about the interesting people we meet on our journeys. I may travel alone most of the time, but that doesn’t mean I’ve always been alone on my journeys. Be it in India or abroad, there are people whose stories have kept me enthralled or those I could easily label ‘interesting’.

Like Christine, whom I met in Chiang Mai, Thailand…

Christine Maesa elephant champ
Christine was travelling alone too

Unlike me, Christine wasn’t working. But like me, she too had started a personal blog to chronicle her journeys across the world. Despite her age, she wanted to make the most of  her life now and see this amazing world. We shared a common dream — but unlike her, young Mithun needed to head back to office to make enough money to continue travelling. Still, people like her only reassured me that the decision I made to start travelling abroad was a good one. I began travelling outside India in late 2009, but I now knew I had many more years left to make up for the countries I couldn’t afford to visit just yet.

You can come across interesting people completely at random as well, like on a walk in Penang

Penang Japanese tourists Mithun Ramesh
This young Japanese couple wanted to take one photo with tourists from every nationality they came across. An interesting thing to do and something fun to remember your travels by!

I know the Japanese are known for their wackiness, so I can’t imagine what awaits me if ever I manage to fly to Japan. *cough*takethehintExpedia*cough*

Of course, I could joke by labeling the random drunk on the street “interesting” too…

San Fernando drunk local Pampanga Philippines
Like this guy in Philippines
Angeles City Dau pickup-point to go to San Fernando
...and even this guy

But just when you thought a drunk could only be funny (or a nuisance), he ends up being of great help when I wanted to know how to get to San Fernando — like the guy above.

San Pedro Cutud Filipino roman soldier Pampanga Philippines
I'll especially never forget the people I met in the Philippines
San Fernando street children smiling Philippines
Be they the innocent street children who often call out tourists with big cameras for a photo... and then shy away when that tourist actually takes their photo!
San Fernando local boys Pampanga Philippines
Or the local boys who noticed me taking photos of street children, and then insisted I take theirs too -- with everyone else around them joining the frame
Angeles City walking street girls Philippines
Filipinos loved to ask random tourists to take their photo*

Philippines was the only South East Asian country I experienced this. In Singapore, people on the street were generally shy or wary of getting their photo taken by a stranger. Proof, that no matter how close a nation may look geographically, cultures can still be vastly different.

It wasn’t just the random people on the street that left an impression on me in Philippines.

Joy Spider Pension house lady El Nido Palawan Philippines
I remember Joy, who ran the beach side inn I stayed at in El Nido. She was curious to know where I was from, asked a lot of questions about India and gave me company when I never asked for it
El Nido lobster dinner Philippines
And later at night, Joy cooked an amazing dinner of lobster soup, grilled lobsters, fried tuna and rice -- all for just Rs.250!

It’s one of the joys of backpacking — meeting people and sharing experiences. At a conventional star hotel, you really don’t chat with the reception staff or the bell boy, but at most hostels catering to backpackers, the staff are often times the best people you can talk to for just about anything. The lesser you pay for a room, the more a human connection there is, really.

Meeting other backpackers have been another memorable aspect of my travels. I’ll never forget the zany Japanese surfer dude I met in Puerto Princesa who told me about his travels. From picking apples in Canada to make some money for his journey across North America, to spending 3 months in India lazing around, it made me wonder how some people in this world didn’t care about living the ‘normal’ life centered around work and family. As much as I envied them for their freedom, being a person of some responsibility, I knew I could never live that carefree a life. Plus, being Indian and how we’re treated when it comes to international visas, let’s be honest, I know I can’t travel like these people can.

Kalui restaurant dinner Puerto Princesa Philippines
The Swedish girls, the Polish guy and the local who was of great help in giving me suggestions on how to go about my travels on the island of Palawan

One of the best sources for local information around the world have often been taxi drivers. Since they come across people from all walks of life, they sure do have a lot of stories to tell.

Kerala taxi driver Abu Dhabi
I always spoke to every taxi driver I hired in the UAE, many of whom were Indians

The guy above told me about how one of his regular assignments were to pick up wealthy (& lazy) Emirati children from their homes and then drop them at school. It was part of a UAE government program to educate them so that it can justified when those very same youth are handed plush jobs! (The program was to hand more jobs to locals instead of expat workers)

There have even been the occasional taxi drivers with similar great tastes in music too, like this Malaysian taxi driver we hired in Kuala Lumpur, who turned out to be a huge Radiohead fan!

Then comes age. Given how long they have lived, the elderly have a lot of experiences to share.

Mrs. Selam Jew town Fort Kochi
Like Mrs. Selam, one among the last remaining Jews living in Cochin's Jew Town

Mrs. Selam told us about her ever-changing environment over the years. She spoke of the diminishing population of Jews in Kerala, her neighbourhood becoming a major tourism draw and even pondering over her very own future in Fort Kochi. Despite being an attraction herself, she was only too happy to answer the questions we asked her.

Everybody has a story to tell.

Chiang Mai light man weird street artist Thailand
I'm sure even this guy in Chiang Mai has a lot to say!

As much as the people above have made my travels memorable, my special moments weren’t always restricted to humans.

Langkawi Sweet Inn cat Loiyumba
Like this cat, who snooped outside our hotel room in Langkawi
Langkawi Sweet Inn cat eating
...who we ended up feeding
Sunset cafe Kudle beach pizza cat
Or this cat who joined us in Gokarna for lunch... whom we, again, had to feed
Om beach Namaste Cafe kitten
And the next day too... you get the idea

Of course, I’ll never forget the once-in-a-lifetime moments of meeting famous people on my travels:

Rick Astley Mithun Divakaran Singapore F1
Like singer Rick Astley in Singapore

… or one of my best days…

Mithun with Mike Shinoda Linkin Park Abu Dhabi F1
... when I met Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park in Abu Dhabi!

I’m not done with my travels. As mentioned earlier, I still have much more to see in this amazing world. I’m only restricted by money these days (time can be managed). And as I have experienced so far, apart from Planet Earth’s natural beauty, what makes our world even more amazing are the very people who inhabit it. They are as much a part of the experience.

As the old proverb goes: “He who does not travel does not know the value of men”. It’s true.

Contest sponsor: Expedia India

*Okay, so not every Filipino!

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7 Comments

  • Aabha Midha

    21/02/2012

    Hi Mithun, nice meeting you via Expedia contest.

    Very intersting pics.

    All the best for the contest!

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Thanks Aabha!

    [Reply]

  • Sudhagee

    23/02/2012

    Hello Mithun, I have been following your blog for some time and I think that this is the first time that I am commenting.

    Liked your post on interesting people.

    Good luck for the contest 🙂

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Thank you!

    [Reply]

  • Punit Dubey

    16/03/2012

    You are a damn traveler mann! Kudos! 🙂

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Thanks man!

    [Reply]

  • The Fool

    10/04/2012

    Thats a really interesting set of people you have met adventures you have had. Enjoyed reading. Nicely presented with photos and narrative complementing each other.

    [Reply]

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