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The royal palace, Bangkok, Thailand

The flights from Rome to Bangkok go smoothly, for the exception that I've brought a big European cold with me. I'm sure, when we get out of the (second) plane after ten hours, I gave it to everyone else. I don't know how I get from the airport to my hostel, but I fall asleep four times in the two different metros and a bus. For two days, I stay in my bed. I can't even go downstairs for the delicious breakfast. But, although I can't move, the thought of going home doesn't come to me. I'm here. I put one foot in front of the other, even if it feels like I'm dying.

On the third day, I give myself a motivating kick in the bottom, take one of the Russian cold tablets I found in the last corner of my first-aid kit and go to the doctor. Of course, not to get something against my cold, but to prove to the Australian state that I don't have cancer, am not pregnant, or endangered by any other contagious disease. (Yes, I was in Russia for six months. No. I didn't go to prison. No, I do not have tuberculosis, you want proof? Of course, I take my shirt off, and you take a picture. Enjoy.) Visa processes have become commonplace. And yet, it never feels good to communicate with a state. From the outside, I feel like a beggar. As a consequence, I often start the journey to these countries with a grudge. And although I can count them on the one hand (Thank you German passport!), I can't get the negative thoughts out of my head.

A street in the centre, Bangkok, Thailand

As soon as am I healthy, I find friends in the hostel. I have become very good at talking to strangers. Sometimes we click and as a consequence, I spend the next few days with two other women travelling alone. Their stories from their lives in Berlin and London remind me vaguely why I left. It's also a relief to hear that I'm not as much of a late bloomer as the eighteen-year-old backpackers make me believe. People who do “everything right" don't know no more than me. And that's OK.

Eventually, my days in Bangkok are numbered. I enjoy the beauty procedures that I have learned to appreciate for one last time, and book the train ticket to Malaysia. The train is surprisingly luxurious. The bed is wide enough for an adult and a child. The view doesn't change significantly on my way south. The roadside is lined with the well-known cheap concrete houses that have shaped the city and landscape since Nepal (with the exception of China). Relieved, I realise that my assessment that I will not miss anything is correct. Same old, same old.

After a good night's sleep, I tumble out of the train and make my way across another border. Once again I enter a Muslim country. I'm a bit nervous, but that settles after a short time. There are many tourists here, and no one even thinks about putting on a headscarf.


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