That night, Jesse and I were looking for something to do. We successfully managed our 18 hour trip from Bangkok to Koh Samui, an island off the eastern cost of Thailand. The trip was comprised of three mode of transportation: train, bus, and boat, for a total cost of $15 U.S. dollars.
The morning started out adventurous. On the way to the Bangkok train station, our taxi driver was merging into a big main street which was jammed with hundreds of cars inching their way forward. He was a bit too aggressive, playing a game of chicken, and he ended up bumping into the car in front of him. The taxi driver was yelling something, presumably claiming his innocence, and the other driver in front of him came out of his car and was yelling back to him with both arms up. We did not understand a word of what they were saying but we knew exactly what was going on. I turned to Jesse and he said “Let’s go!” We jumped out of the taxi and started running toward the train station, laughing uncontrollably, as we understood that the payment was optional.
We had a 12 hour ride on a sleeper train. We weren’t sure if we could get something to eat on the train, but the chance of us finding something appetizing was remote. So we stopped at the only convenience store in the station. We walked around the store aisles twice but we just could not find anything that looked interesting. There were local passengers buying their dinner to bring onto their trains, but none of the stuff they had looked familiar and we weren’t sure if our stomach could handle it. The last thing you want is to be sick on a train with strange object in your stomach. I don’t really remember what we ate but not much beyond Ritz crackers and coke.
|As the train slowly departed the Bangkok station, it proceeded through the city section where home-made shacks occupied either side of the train track and kids were playing six feet from the moving train. The train was moving slowly through the slum section as if to show some respect for people who were living there. Such co-existence is so beyond the western standards that it almost made me question who was there first, train or people…|
|As the night fell on the track, the train conductor came to lower the bunk bed and spread clean white sheets, which seemed totally unbalanced with everything else on the train. As I went to the toilet at the end of the train car, I noticed that the same conductor was washing himself between train cars with a bucket of water. There was no shower on the train, but apparently this man wanted to wash off his sweat before he went to bed. You wonder who is more civilized…|
As we reached the destination station at 6:00am, we got off the train and immediately got on the bus parked outside of the train station. It seemed everyone who got off the train got on this bus as there was no other purpose for this train stop. About a 30 minute ride later, we were at the boat dock waiting for a passenger boat to take us to the island. There were already a bunch of backpackers and young travelers of all nationalities. Checking on the boat schedule, we found out that the next boat was 3 hours away. We were in no hurry and the only goal of that day was to get to the island.
Finally, the boat came and everyone moved toward it. As we got on the boat, we were told to put our bags and backpacks on the deck and go inside. As we went inside, all the seats were already taken and we were pushed out to the other side to the front deck. Aboard the packed ship with the over-capacity passengers squeezed on the top of the deck of the boat, we could not move from a square foot of the assigned space for the entire 3 hour journey under the blazing sun. All I could think about was that this is the kind of boat that you read in the newspaper – the over-capacity boat capsized in the open sea full of refugees…. and one Japanese and one American on board.
|We had been on the island for a couple of days. Obviously we survived the boat trip. The only thing we had to do that day was to get to the island alive. We’ll worry about everything else when we get there. That’s how we felt about this whole journey. Finally when we got there, we worried about nothing. Jesse was 17 years old then. Young, fearless, open to new experiences. No big deal, Dad.|
12 years later, Diane and I were looking for something to do. I decided to finish my 11 year stint in Tokyo and it was time to return to the U.S. Our son, Jesse, got married that year and I wanted to do something different than commuting back and forth to New York City. After much thinking, I arrived at the conclusion – I want to spend six months snowboarding in Vermont! Somewhere along the line, this idea of a bed and breakfast came up. After a brief investigation, it seemed like something Diane and I could do together. We did not have any hospitality experience but we thought we could figure it out after we got there. 11months later, we bought this beautiful, historic, country estate B&B in Manchester, Vermont. The rest is history. It is a path less traveled, but it is certainly a journey worth taken.
As you know, I am a student of retirement and I talk to many guests about how to prepare for a happy retirement. One of the guests said, when asked about his retirement, “Retirement is not something to be figured out. It is a mystery to be lived!” Sometimes you cannot figure out everything before you jump in, but the joy of living a mystery is something you just have to find out in real time.
Come to Ormsby Hill and when you cross that Vermont state line, somehow, you feel different…
In pursuit of the best mystery…
|The Inn at Ormsby Hill
1842 Main Street
Manchester Center, VT 05255