“TAM. Hey TAM! How do you say? Taveller or tavelling?”
‘Not again’, I thought to myself. When will he go to sleep? He surely finished his bottle of red wine ages ago now. (Tessa: “Nope, he’s still got half a glass left”)
Our time on Koh Phayam at an end; we got the early morning (for us at least!) ferry back to Ranong at 8:30am (being Thailand, this obviously meant we left at 8:50am. As I keep reminding Tessa, time is more a guideline than a rule in Thailand). The boat journey was less than enjoyable with torrential rain the entire time but at least we were under cover. And Tessa spent most of the journey asleep on my lap so she didn’t seem to mind.
We transferred from Ranong pier to the bus station and took our seats for the two hour wait for our minivan to Chumphon. Everything was going along nicely with a few games of iPhone Yahtzee (our go-to game when we have nothing else to do and don’t want to talk to each other) when we were…approached.
“What your name? Where you from? I’m Teddy. Teddy the Thai.”
With the warm memories of Nice Man still fresh in our minds, we chatted with Teddy and he seemed a rather jovial chap. We told him where we were from, where we were going and he offered us his ‘advice’ which we gratefully accepted.
“You no go Malaysia. No drinking in Malaysia. All Islam. Go to Laos. Laos cheap cheap. You have good time.”
Teddy, as we later found out, is 70 years old and, despite it only being midday, seemed rather intoxicated. “It’s only midday, he can’t be drunk”, I said to Tessa. Right on cue, Teddy produced a 3/4 full bottle of red which he passed to me to uncork for him to pour another glass. Oh.
We heard all about how Teddy has been married for 40 years to his (in our opinions, very understanding) wife. We heard how he grew up in America (we’re skeptical) and his travels to England (when asked, he couldn’t say where. Again; we’re skeptical). He even gave us nicknames; “Tam” and “Honey”. My nickname is more of a mispronunciation and his version of ‘Tessa’ was more like ‘Tetcha’ so I think ‘Honey’ was just easier for him to say, to be honest.
After hearing about his blissful 40-year marriage, travels to faraway places and how we should definitely not go to Malaysia because it’s full of Muslims, we started to wish Teddy would politely go away. Mercifully, at this moment, his friend Tommy appeared! Tommy (a very patient man) did not seem drunk and spoke very good English. He quickly realised our waning enthusiasm for conversation with Teddy and tried to drag him away. Unfortunately, Teddy was having none of it. He was having a great time chatting to his new European pals.
“I take care of you. You’re my son. You’re my daughter. You hungry? I have lots of money. I pay for you. Why you not talk back to me Tam? Am I boing you?”
After an hour of being spoken to by Teddy, we said that we must head to our bus at it will soon to arriving.
“Where you go?”
Our hopes of a quiet two-hour journey to Chumphon were seemingly extinguished. However, a small chink of light! As Tessa and I excused ourselves to go to the bathroom (to cry) before boarding, we got to the minivan to see that Teddy and Tommy had taken the front two seats with the back row still available! Salvation! Tessa telepathically understood the gravity of the situation and this potential opportunity to escape and stormed to the back of the minivan, putting a full three rows of seats between us and our new best friend. Surely, a peaceful journey was now ours.
Unfortunately, this was very wishful thinking indeed.
“Tam. Hey Tam. Monopoly means one yes?”, Teddy shouted from the front of the bus.
“Yes. Yes, it does.”
For the entire two-hour trip, Teddy talked to everyone on the bus, introducing us as he went as though we were family (“That’s Tam, he’s from England. And Honey from Germany”). In fairness, all the Thai people in the van seemed to find him quite amusing and he even had the notoriously stern-faced border patrol guard laughing (our route went very close to Myanmar).
At one point, I moved seats to the row in front and the opposite side which Teddy found very confusing indeed. “Hey Tam” he’d say over his left shoulder; to find that it was only Honey looking back at him! “Where’s Tam?”, he’d ask before finally looking over his right shoulder; his face lighting up as he located his long-lost son. This happened more than once. More than twice, in fact.
“Why you no married? You love her? You love him?”
Finally arriving in Chumphon, we jumped out of the minivan, waved goodbye to Teddy and Tommy and breathed a sigh of relief that the one-way conversation was over. We were more than a little grateful for the 1km walk to our home for the next two nights; Retro Box Hotel.
Made from two stacks of converted shipping containers, Retro Box Hotel was a new type of accommodation for both of us. With a swimming pool in the middle of the semi-circle of containers and just a two-minute walk from the food of the Chumphon Night Market, it made for a pleasant two nights before moving on to one of the places we’ve most been looking forward to in the early stages of our adventure; Koh Tao!
Teddy appears to have had a lasting legacy on our trip. Still with a vivid memory, Tessa now calls me ‘Tam’ at every opportunity.
“Tam. Hey Tam. I forgot my towel for the shower. Can you please pass it?”. Definitely did it on purpose.