We meet many people on the road, both locals and travelers alike who help us in time of need or distress without expecting a return. Last week of every month I bring you stories from travelers who have experienced kindness on the road and like to share and spread it for the love of travel.
This month’s story has come from Deborah Provenzale who takes us to Thailand.
Over to Deborah Provenzale.
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It might seem scary or intimidating to travel to far off places and interact with total strangers. They likely won’t speak the same language or share the same beliefs and perspectives. However, with all the places I’ve traveled, all the cultures I’ve experienced, and all the people I’ve met, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it is this: People are people wherever you go. I’ve found this to be especially true in times of need.
One particular case was when I was traveling in Thailand for the first time in 2014. My female friend and I had spent a couple days in Chiang Mai, where we rented scooters for a 5-day road trip on the Mae Hong Son Loop. The 1,000 km loop is known for its scenic roads through the mountains of northern Thailand. However, what really makes it famous is the 1,864 curves along the steep mountain course that climb to a height of 2,500 m above sea level. Definitely not a place you want to have scooter trouble on the road.
Unfortunately, that’s just what we had. Although everything was fine on flat roads, I quickly realized that my scooter had an issue that prevented me from going more than 40 kph up hills, and we hadn’t even started up the big hills yet. We spent most of the 2nd day of our trip waiting for my scooter in the repair shop.
After lunch on the 2nd day, we continued on our way, assured that the problem was fixed. It wasn’t, but it turned out to be a minor inconvenience compared to the problem my friend’s scooter started having. Every time we stopped to take photos, if we turned off our scooters, hers was reluctant to start again, At first, it didn’t seem like such a big problem, because she was able to always get it started again after several tries. However, by the 3rd day, it was so bad that my friend didn’t want to turn off her scooter when we stopped in case it didn’t start again.
Stranded in the Middle of Nowhere
Then, the dreaded thing happened. We had just climbed a particularly steep mountain and were at the peak when my friend’s scooter completely died. We were on a road taking us to Ban Rak Thai, a remote village on the Thailand/Myanmar border. So we were nowhere near the main Mae Hong Son Loop route. In addition, because we were in such a remote area, we had no cell service… not that we had anyone we could call anyway.
What’s worse is that the last sign we had seen said we still had 13 km to go to Ban Rak Thai. So there was basically nothing but steep, winding mountain roads between where we were stuck and where we needed to go. As if that weren’t bad enough, it was early evening and the sun was already beginning to set, and we hadn’t seen or passed any cars for kilometers. I’ll go ahead and say it – we were scared.
Our Knights on a Motorcycle
To our great relief, a motorcycle came up the hill from the way we had just come. Riding it were two young military guys wearing camouflage, likely Thai border patrol officers. We waved them down and got them to stop. Then, using sign language and silly sound effects, we tried to explain to them the problem. After several of their own attempts to get the scooter started, they realized our dire situation.
This is what’s really amazing, though. These two guys stayed with us and waited until another car came by. Thankfully, it was a full-size pickup, and the guys got them to stop. Again, we couldn’t communicate with them, so we just stood there looking pathetic while the guys talked to the nice couple in the truck. Then, they did something that completely amazed and humbled us. The three men loaded my friend’s scooter into the back of the truck.
Humbled by Kindness
The most we had hoped for was that they would maybe just give us a ride to town so we could arrange some way to get the scooter the next day. Instead, the men lifted the heavy 150cc scooter into the truck, got it all secured with cables and bungees, then told my friend to get in the back seat. Then, like a small caravan, we slowly made our way to Ban Rak Thai with the truck in the lead, the military guys in the middle and me following behind. It was a first rate rescue, and their kindness didn’t stop there.
They delivered us directly to a local repair place where, although the man and his family were right in the middle of dinner, he stopped eating immediately and started investigating the problem. While we waited, the man’s family even offered us food if we wanted. Not wanting to impose, we graciously declined, but we were warmed by the kind gesture. In the meantime, the man who drove my friend in the truck went to the hotel nearby, where we had our room reserved, and got us checked in so we would have one less thing to deal with.
There are No Words for True Kindness
In the end, the scooter couldn’t be fixed there. The repair man helped us arrange a truck for the next day to haul both of our scooters (and us) to another town, Pai, where we could exchange them for different scooters. Wasting a day riding in a truck was probably the biggest downer of our trip, but our gratitude for the help we received kept our spirits high.
Overall, this experience just proves that no matter where you are in the world, no matter your different cultures, background, beliefs and even languages, people really are just people. None of us spoke the other’s language, yet we were able to communicate and find meaning at the most basic level – humanity.
As a gesture of thanks to the man and woman who owned the truck, my friend gave them a beautiful hand-made rug she had bought in the long-neck village where we had stopped earlier that day. No words were necessary. The tears in the woman’s eyes, that reflected the tears of gratitude in our own, said more than any words ever could. This is the true language of kindness.
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Deborah Provenzale is an American expat living in Taiwan since 2011. On her blog, www.101ColoredDoors.com, she shares her adventures in traveling and her experience as an expat with advice and tips for others who want to travel more or also become expats.
Deborah is a certified Lifestyle Coach, helping people have the courage to step out of their comfort zones and try the things they’ve been wanting to do. She believes that it’s never too late to try something new, and that the time to get started is today.
If you have been helped by someone during your travels and want to share your story with the world, feel free to connect with me in comments section.