One day about a month ago, I took off on foot for the Tesco, a supermarket chain that is big in Europe and Asia. I got lost and ended up under a bridge, by a food vendor. I bought dinner and sat down next to some Thais playing a form of checkers. They immediately invited me to play and insisted that I keep playing. After 45 minutes, I pulled out a chess set which I bought in Budapest in the hopes of playing with people throughout my travels. They went wild. We barely spoke to each other, but we quickly became friends. Now, every Thursday, I have about 90 minutes of chess and checkers with some motorcycle taxi drivers under a bridge in Bangkok. Last week, I introduced them to Led Zeppelin and the Doors during a thunderstorm. It's pretty much everything that I could ever want.
It's also pretty remarkable that chess and checkers are played on different sides of the world – although the rules are different here. Thai chess is much slower, and many of the pieces can't move more than one tile at a time. As it turns out, though, chess actually came from this side of the world, in nearby India, over 1500 years ago. From India, the game traveled to Persia, and from there, Arabs took it to Europe, where it grew and changed into what we know today. However, as I've discovered, there are many different ways to play chess.