As I've mentioned before, back in my days with flickr I participated in a group called 100 Strangers. To participate in the group, members had to approach strangers and ask for permission to take their photo and contribute it to the group. They had to get a little information about the person, including their first name.

One situation which I found gave me the opportunity to meet some interesting strangers was when I was doing some long-distance train travel. Some trips would yield nobody but on the other hand I remember one trip where I met three new strangers.

A little over six months ago I was returning to Penang from Hat Yai in Thailand. I noticed a young woman also boarding the train. The people who are already on the train have mostly been there since Bangkok and have booked a specific seat, a sleeper in fact. If you board at Hat Yai, you have 'free seating', ie you have to take what's left, if you can find it. Many of the seats are still made up as beds. The travellers are taking the opportunity to sleep in. You have to be fortunate to find a seat vacated by someone who got off at Hat Yai.

Eventually the aforementioned young lady and I found a couple of seats opposite each other. We started chatting. I think we might have started in Thai but perhaps we discovered that her English was better than my Thai so we switched to English. After a while I invited her to participate in the 100 Strangers project. She agreed and I took quite a few photos of her (as well as a candid of someone sleeping on the opposite side of the compartment).

The young lady's name is Kitty. We had a few hours to chat and to get to know each other. Before we parted we agreed to stay in touch and exchanged email addresses. In time, I posted her photo on flickr and it became one of my more popular 100-Strangers shots.

At the time Kitty was living in Bangkok. Her family lived in Songkhla and she'd been visiting them before she got on the train. In time Kitty moved to Songkhla and suggested in one of her emails that on one of my future visits to Hat Yai she would love to show me around. On my latest visit, she and a couple of her cousins picked me up from my hotel and drove me to Songkhla. They showed me around Koh Yo, an island in Songkhla Lake and then took me to meet more of the family. I was introduced to parents, uncles, aunts and a grandmother. I have always found Thai people to be friendly and hospitable and Kitty's family were certainly no exception. We then did a little more touring before they returned me to my hotel.

I had a great time and really liked Songkhla. It has so much that appeals to me in a tourist destination without some of the more seedy aspects so common in the more popular tourist resorts—at least I didn't see any of it.

I've been posting a few of the photos I took in Songkhla on my ipernity page and there are still a few more to come.

Thanks Kitty. You are no longer a stranger. I really appreciate your friendship.