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The Midnight Express

I enjoy books just as much as people who can hear, and I’m always throwing myself into the adventures found in their pages. One of my favorite novels is “Shinyatokkyu” (“Midnight Express”) by Kotaro Sawaki. The book features plenty of interesting characters meeting on buses and trains, interacting with locals at cafés and crossroads.

I particularly like diving into the life of the main character who is greatly affected by the people he meets. His thoughts change with each route he travels and the landscapes he visits. The characters often end their time together with a mutual “good luck,” which reminds me of my own travels.

I’ve always been interested in interactions and conversations between fellow travelers and decided to take my own “Midnight Express” from Singapore to Laos. On the Malay Railway, an old man who couldn’t read sat next to me. Although we were unable to communicate, I was touched by his offer to share his lunch and allow me to use a blanket he brought.

On the banks of the muddy Mekong River, I ran into a Belgian hippie who was sketching his way through Asia. We shared a drink at an outdoor bar and shared our travel experiences using gestures and notes. As we gazed up at the stars along the riverbed, we laughed at the delicious buffet we had become for the local mosquitoes. We exchanged addresses and parted with a “good luck” of our own.

For the past 16 years the saga of the “Midnight Express” series has continued, but last year witnessed its final “departure.” The following is an excerpt that touched me from the last story.

“It’s not just the view from the bus window. Rather, we view the scenery during our travels through many different windows. Whither the plane, train or hotel window, the scenery beyond is the same expanse.

“However, as we continue on in our travels, our gaze unexpectedly gives us a glimpse of our inner selves. That experience becomes our ‘window’ inside ourselves and for those who travel alone this window is ever present.” 

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