Standing Speechless at a Communal Sink

Derek Travel Tales 17 Comments

The following is a short tale about an inexplicable occurrence – one of those moments to which being stunned into silence is the only reasonable reaction. Such moments seem to be an inherent part of travel and are typically uplifting and extraordinarily positive.  This particular story, from one of my visits to Thailand a couple of years ago, popped into my head last night as I was doing some stretches and heard my knees cracking.

Waiting in the arrival hall of Bangkok’s Don Mueang International Airport, I found it strange that my friend had not yet come through the sliding doors that led out from the customs area. Her flight from Melbourne had arrived at 8:30pm and despite watching an endless stream of passengers pass by, both from her flight and from flights that arrived over an hour later, my friend never appeared.

And of course, my cell phone had died the day before and so I had no way of trying to communicate with her at this point.

I waited for three hours without any luck before deciding to jump in a taxi and return to my guesthouse in the center of Bangkok.

This particular guesthouse was actually an old teakwood home, well-hidden down a series of narrow alleys leading off the backstreets near Khao San Road. I had only stumbled upon it during an afternoon of exploration and because of its quiet location and family-run atmosphere, I chose to stay there. Unfortunately, as I had planned to meet my friend at the airport, I had never informed her of the name or location of the guesthouse.

At midnight I sent a quick email to my friend and then returned to my room. I sat up for another hour, unsuccessfully trying to determine what might have happened. Eventually, I decided to brush my teeth and as this was a budget guesthouse, I had to walk downstairs to the first floor in order to use the communal sink located in one of the hallways.

I started brushing my teeth while pacing back and forth, something that I do all the time for some bizarre reason. After about twenty seconds, a door to one of the rooms near the sink opened and I turned around. There stood my friend, smiling and shaking her head.

She simply said, “I only know one person in the world who paces back and forth while brushing their teeth and whose knees crack so loudly at the same time. I heard it through the walls and knew it had to be you.”

I nearly spit my toothpaste all over the floor.  Out of all 1,000+ accommodation options in Bangkok, she happened to end up at the exact same, nearly-impossible-to-find, 11-room guesthouse.

How did we miss each other at the airport? It turned out I failed to notice on the arrival monitor that her flight had arrived at Terminal 1. I had been waiting at Terminal 2.

I want to hear about the inexplicable experiences that you’ve had. Share your incredible, random, bizarre stories in the comments below…and as always, thanks for stopping by!

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Comments 17

  1. Sarah

    I had been staying at a Hostel in Jerusalem and after about a week I had made friends with quite a few other travelers, one of which was a girl from Germany. One morning she invited me to take a shuttle to the beach with her and some friends to celebrate her birthday. I reaally wanted to go, problem was, the shuttle-ride happened to be very expensive and I was getting to the end of my shekels. After they all left, I decided to go to a beach as well, but by the much more affordable bus. I asked locals the best way to get there, hopped on a bus, and hiked 30 mn.s through Tel Aviv using a map and stopping intermitantly to ask locals if I was headed the right direction toward the sea. I finally found it, I had no idea which random beach I had fumbled into but I immediately got in the water and started enjoying it. A few minutes later I heard my name being called. I looked next to me in the water and there was my friend from the hostel! The chances of us both being there, not just at the same beach but in the same 10 meters of the beach, are just insane! So I got to celebrate her birthday with her and her friends after all.

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  2. Marie

    I was living in Florence for a while and decided to do a weekend trip to Verona. I couldn’t miss the opportunity of an opera in Verona. I got the idea from a pamphlet of a tour company that I found at my school. My roommate Cornelia knew about the weekend trips I had been doing for a while and I mentionned that Verona was one of the next ones I would do. So I go there on a Friday, reach my hostel, go to the opera, sleep and then wake up on saturday with my itinerary planned of all the touristy things I wanted to do. On the way back to the hostel from one of those, I took a bus and guess who I see standing there? Cornelia! She had a friend who was dropping in from Switzerland and she decided to meet up in Verona! Then as we talk we realise that she booked a bed in the same Youth hostel I did! In the lobby, we arrange for us to meet in the lobby the morning after and get some breakfast together. I go to the dormitory room I sleep in and ten minutes later… Cornelia walks in! We got the SAME WEEKEND, the SAME CITY, the SAME HOSTEL and the SAME ROOM.

  3. Travis Kowalski

    About seventeen years ago I was 22 and traveling alone around the country and found myself in Memphis Tennessee visiting the Titanic Museum that was there. This was about the time that the movie had been made. While walking around inside I brushed elbows with a woman that I found myself incredibly attracted too. We smiled at each other but the moment went no further, as she had a male companion that made his way near. I left the museum feeling as one does when they find themselves in the company of another and there is real chemistry, but it is lost. I drove around awhile investigating the town and then I followed the signs leading to the Memphis zoo. I parked my car and walked to the entrance. There were these huge blocks of cement with large animal sculptures atop them, elephants, lions, etc. I could not believe my eyes as they found her sitting atop one of the blocks at the entrance, looking incredible. She was as surprised to see me as I was. I walked up and spoke to her for awhile, but she alluded to my need to not stay to long as her boyfriend would be coming back soon. I did not care and kept her company, when he arrived I introduced myself. It wasn’t long and he asked me to give them a ride to the airport. There was something I did not trust about him, and I declined. Anyways, I regret that day, because as her boyfriend walked on, she saw that I was distressed, and she turned and asked if I was alright. I said that I was, but she seemed to not want to go. I wish that I had been wise enough to tell her to stay. She might have. I could see she was in a strained relationship. I was ballsy, but not wise or strong enough then to trust all my instincts. It was a moment of chemistry and I had not felt something like this before. I should have demanded what a felt be given opportunity, but I let her go, and to this day I think she would have walked away with me if I had asked her to. It was a feeling and a look to her eyes. Words were useless, except to express certainty of feeling, and I didn’t understand until she walked away exactly how much feeling there was between us. I have never forgot this experience, and if this happens again I will know it and know what is to be done. Oh Memphis, you tried!

  4. Matthew

    one of my most amazing travel coincidences occurred when on a 3-month summer road trip around America. While wandering around Washington D.C. my friend and I talked with a Hare Krishna monk who was passing out books at a cultural fair that was going on at the National Mall. about 8 weeks later we were walking on the streets of Berkeley, California and happened to see the exact same monk on a street corner. What are the odds of seeing the same person on a street corner opposite sides of the country?

  5. Adam - Tropical Nomad

    Hey Derek,
    I finished a 14 hour day of work in Perth one summers day and headed for the airport, through almost 2 hours of peak hour traffic to pick up a friend. I waited in the terminal for 4 hours, only to realise that he had mixed up the time and sent me 12am instead of 12pm. Of course, I could not get through to him and when eventually I did, he was drunk in a hostel..



    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Adam – At least it was your friend who had mixed up the time. Sadly, I could not blame my friend for my error.

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  7. jonbar

    Yes I know 2 years late but I have to share my story 🙂
    Anyways, one weekend when I was younger, my dad took my sister and me to Montreal (I live in Toronto so we went every so often) We had a hotel prebooked and everything. At the same time, my mom (my parents were split up) took a bus tour that went around Montreal, Ottawa, and Quebec city. In the evening, we get a call from her. Shes a little over protective, so it was nothing new to hear from her twice a day. She’s on the phone laughing, and I’m trying to figure out why. Then she tells me: She checked into her hotel, and called the number of the hotel we gave her. i can’t remember the exact message she was told, but it was something about calling rooms in the same hotel. That’s right, she was in the same hotel, 3 floors below us. Out of three large cities she was visiting, each with thousands upon thousands of hotels, she happened to be in the same one us us!!!

    1. Earl

      @jonbar: That’s a crazy story as well and thanks for sharing! Such tales always fascinate me, especially when I take a minute to really think about the statistical chances that something like this would occur. I don’t know for certain but I’m willing to be the chances are ridiculously low!

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  9. Jonny |

    Lol love it.

    When I was in Bangkok I mate an awesome American from California. We got talking and over the course of the night discovered we had both been living in Shanghai for a while.

    Not only that be we also discovered that we had both been to the very same hidden club in the heart of Shanghai that very few foreigners have been to as you have to know the locals. The reason being is that there is a hidden pass-code that you have to put into 9 glass spheres of air before the hidden door opens and the passcode changes every day.

    Chances of both us both being there – insane.

    1. Earl

      Jonny – Not only is that story indeed insane, that club sounds insane as well. I don’t want to know what goes on behind that hidden door.

      Thanks for sharing and enjoy your travel break at home!

  10. Derek

    I said, “No way!” out loud as I read that.

    Also, you should have someone check out your old man knees. Sounds like pretty soon wandering Earl is going to be traveling by wheelchair.

    1. Earl

      Derek – Haha…I’ve already checked it out, the cracking is perfectly normal! Although if I needed a wheelchair, it wouldn’t stop me from wandering…

  11. Nate

    Earl – that is a crazy story!! I love hearing about that kind of stuff since I’m very much into paranormal type stuff. This almost seems like an example of synchronicity. So, there are a couple of events…1. You were supposed to meet at the airport, which didn’t happen…..then 2. you both chose the exact same guesthouse out of many available and did end up meeting. Very strange. Synchronicity is really meant to explain events that happen that don’t seem to fit under normal probably circumstances. Very cool.

    1. Earl

      Nate – I love when these things occur as well!

      I actually have another story which I believe is also an example of synchronicity: I became good friends with a Canadian fellow while spending two weeks in a small village in northern India. We first met at a small tea stall in the village and we hung out at this stall every evening as there was little else to do in the village. Unfortunately, after we parted ways, we never kept in touch. Two years later I was back in India acting as a ‘tour guide’ to my mom and we visited this same village. Eager to get a cup of tea from my favorite tea stall I entered the tiny cafe. The Canadian fellow from two years prior was sitting right there! We just both happened to have returned at the same time.

      Craziness indeed!

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