Note from the Author: 1-Year Search

Wow, it's been a while since I last checked this site. And it's been a year since René and I first met! :D You might want to try visiting Koh Phangan, it's lovely there this time of year.

I am still looking forward to getting any update on this impossible search :D Take care, everyone!

Written on April 15, 2009


This blog may stir different emotions, causing negative impressions or reactions to some readers. The sole objective of this blog is to get in touch with René. To the strong believers of fate and second chances, I can only hope that you help me in any way possible. Thank you and God bless!


René and Joanne met on a bus from Koh Phangan to Bangkok on the 15th of April, 2008. Though both enjoying the perks of singlehood, the chemistry was right and the end of island-hopping/backpacking turned into something extraordinary. They conversed for almost 6 straight hours -- on and off the bus. They talked about many, many things -- interests, travels, family, faith, friends, culture, future plans -- except their contact details. René was very much enthusiastic but Joanne wasn't sure if their encounter was a mere acquaintance, or meant to be a lifelong connection. Upon arriving at the unexpected bus stop, lost in trance, they headed towards opposite directions. Unknowingly, they decided to test fate by going separate ways and seeing if destiny could bring them back together...

Joanne, having known a few places René was planning to go to with his remaining 5 days in Bangkok, took the chance to look for him, hoping and praying that they could bump into each other once again -- from the crowded aisles of MBK to the vastness of Chatuchak Weekend Market. As a final resort, the thought of going to the airport tempted her, since she knew what day he was heading back to Germany. But going there, unaware of the time and airline, eventually discouraged her. From that day on, Joanne thought of other ways to reach him, and finally decided to take the journey through the internet. And so, with her best friend's help, this blog came into existence.

An announcement was posted in Mojo Spills 2 days after their encounter, with some of the details Joanne learned about René. She hopes that this could lead her to him in some way. So, dear friends, please...

Help me find René!!!

The Plan

Last April, Joanne and her best friend, Sally, planned a 5-day getaway to mark 5 years of their friendship. It was an annual thing for them to go out of Bangkok for a couple of days. It felt like an opportune time to explore the southern wonders of Thailand, being foreigners themselves.

The anticipation kicked up a notch when Sally accidentally picked up a new tourist handbook lying on the sidewalk on her way home one afternoon. "Koh Phangan" was the title, a place they've never even heard of. Apparently, the island is just above Koh Samui, taking more than 12 hours to reach. It created so much fuss between the two friends that they instantly decided to go there for the Songkran holiday (also known as the Thai new year). They scouted different beaches online for almost a month and finally settled for Asia Bungalows, a white sand beach resort directly facing west. And so, they looked forward to enjoying beautiful sunsets, peace and quiet at the cozy resort.

The Trip

Everything was in order: the bus-to-boat (they actually preferred the train, but they booked 2 months too late), boat-to-pier and pier-to-resort transfers, to and fro. The bus ride was convenient enough, except when a young couple started smooching loudly in front of them. Sally snorted, "oooh, why NOW when we're traveling WITHOUT boy friends?!?" Joanne couldn't help but laugh. If it weren't for their mp3's, they wouldn't have enjoyed a good night's sleep.

After a 9-hour bus ride, an hour wait at the pier, a 3-hour ferry ride and a 20-minute tuktuk ride, the 2 friends arrived at the resort. They were both pleased -- everything looked exactly like the pictures online.

The Holiday

The 5-day getaway turned out great, as expected -- fun, peaceful and quiet, full of adventures and memories, tons of laughs, a few tears, a lot of prayers, and hundreds of photos! "Going to Koh Phangan?" was posted in Mojo Spills a few days after the trip, to help those who are planning to go there and share the pictures they've taken.

The two friends realized how much they needed that vacation. Both wished to be re-energized before resuming another year of work. They tried to assess their personal issues, and unloaded themselves of unnecessary baggages. As one looked forward to facing a new relationship, the other finally decided to leave her past behind.

The holiday ended joyfully. They left the island with big smiles, spirits up, ready for a brand new start. As they began to contemplate on their usual lives in Bangkok, who would think that a series of surprises awaited them right after Koh Phangan?

On A Boat

12.00-15.00 Hours
From Koh Phangan to Suratthani

It took almost 3 hours to travel from Koh Phangan to the port of Suratthani. Joanne and René were both aboard this boat, separately reminiscing on the few days/weeks that just passed by. Who knew that these two strangers would be seated next to each other on a bus, back to the terminal bound for Bangkok?

On A Bus

15.00-15.50 Hours
From Donsak Pier to Suratthani Bus Terminal

When Joanne and Sally got off the boat, there were 3 buses waiting at the pier. They climbed the nearest one right away. Already comfortably seated, the driver informed them that they should be at the other bus instead. So the two friends hurried their way towards the other bus (with an "Under The Sea" theme, brightly painted all over).

It was crowded inside. The only 2 seats available were a row apart, so they decided to split. Joanne said, "good luck, i hope your seatmate's not a stinker", which, unfortunately, became Sally's fate that afternoon. Sally settled on a seat behind Joanne, and turned on her mp3 player to sleep and ignore the smells.

As Sally began to doze off, Joanne busily placed her bag and guitar at the luggage compartment, slightly hitting the person seated next to her. "Oops, sorry!" she said, and the stranger replied "no problem" with a smile. She tried to sneak out a couple of mints from her pocket, and finally relaxed on her seat. "So, did you go to Koh Phangan?" she asked, still clutching the mints on her lap. "Yes, did you?", he replied. Words flowed easily from then on. They talked mostly about Germany, its government and culture, and Thailand.

The conversation lasted for another 40 minutes. When the bus reached the stop, all the passengers hurried down the bus. Joanne checked if Sally was still breathing. The moment the three of them stood up, Joanne managed to say "oh by the way, this is my friend, Sally." He replied "hi, I'm René", followed by her "I'm Joanne". Only then did they learn about each other's names.

And it all began, and ended, with the mint wrappers unopened.

At The Terminal

16.00-18.00 Hours
2-hour wait somewhere between Donsak and Suratthani town proper

The bus arrived at another terminal where everyone was asked to sit and wait for another 2 hours. Upon getting off the bus, the newly acquainted friends went their own separate ways. Joanne and Sally headed towards a vacant bench, where it was least crowded. They noticed the passengers lined up to get their tickets validated, so Sally went and joined the queue. As Joanne was starting to relax, Sally hurriedly went back and asked her to take her place. "You get the tickets checked, Pogi (handsome, in English) is over there!" Joanne took the tickets from her friend and went, surprisingly, without any qualms.

As she joined the line, René was standing opposite her at the other queue. He smiled at her. She wondered why he wasn't with his other friends in the bus so she asked "where are your friends?" and he replied "Oh, them? No, I'm traveling alone."

Suddenly, the lady at the counter ordered René's line to transfer to Joanne's. Apparently, they were at the "Thais Only" line. The lady signaled Joanne to go forward, thinking she was Thai. So she nodded along and tried to speak the native language, although poorly. As she handed out the tickets, she met René's gaze, who was standing a few feet away. Joanne waved at him, and asked for his ticket. She thought she might as well let him tag along, and he thanked her with a smile. They both signed their names on the form and went back to their respective places.

As Joanne was telling her friend what went on at the counter, Sally interrupted by saying "eherm, Pogi is on his way here...." And he stayed there for the next 2 hours.

On A Song Taew

18.00-18.20 Hours
20-minute ride to Suratthani town proper

Joanne hopped in as René loaded his backpack on the roof of the song taew. He was helping other travelers load their stuff. Upon climbing the small Thai vehicle, René bumped his head and acted as if nothing happened. Joanne saw but didn't react.

One female traveler, an American, came in last. She sat at the rear end. She looked a bit troubled about her sitting position, afraid that she might fall. She asked, "is this headed for the terminal going to Bangkok?" Suddenly, Joanne answered, "THIS is going to Bangkok." Her eyes went wide, in total shock. The other passengers started to giggle, and she got the joke. "Sooo NOT funny" was her reply. Then she smiled.

On the Sidewalk

18.20-20.00 Hours
An almost 2-hour wait at the town proper

The passengers were dropped off on a barren street, facing a small Thai cafeteria. Sally went in and left the two chit-chatters on the sidewalk.

Joanne and René have just gotten to know each other a little more. Bit by bit, as René voluntarily revealed his itinerary for the next 5 days in Bangkok, Joanne tried to offer help on how to get around the city. However, she had gotten the idea that he had everything figured out, based from his response. It was a perfect moment to exchange contact details, but for some dull reason, they didn't. They simply resumed talking.

After 2 hours of stories and laughs and several "BUS COME NOW! WAIT PLEASE!" from the ticket lady, the bus finally arrived.

On Another Bus

20.00 Hours to Almost Midnight
4-hour trip, going to Bangkok

Joanne and Sally were called to board the bus first -- again, falsely assumed to be Thai nationals. Naturally, they got the best seats. When almost all the other passengers were in, only 2 vacant seats were left: one on Joanne's left, across the aisle; and the other behind her. As one white guy grabbed the left seat, René settled on the other. To her surprise, he suddenly popped his head above her, and went on with his story about a dog. Apparently, he still hadn't finished narrating from earlier off the bus. Sally couldn't help but laugh up her sleeve, saying "aba, talaga nga naman...." (something like "ehermmm", just worded). René quickly asked "what did she say?", to which Joanne replied "nothing".

While Sally was starting to pick on a small kid in front of them, a list was being passed around. It came from the middle, where René was sitting. It was supposed to be passed backwards but he passed it on to Joanne instead. That's when she saw his whole name: René Lachaughtenen or Lechenhaughtenen or Luthenhaughtenen. She wrote her name and Sally's, and gave it back to him.

Fortunately, Sally and Joanne were able to sleep soundly, in spite of the noise from the TV. They played "Grizzly Bear" on-board, a supposedly "scary" movie, so predictable that the first 5 minutes would instantly tell anybody it's a waste of film.

At A Thai Eatery

April 16, Almost Midnight to 01.00 Hours
1-hour stopover

Four hours passed. The bus turned to a stop. The grumpy driver said out loud "OK, OUT! OUT! 30 MINUTES ONLY!" He's got some issues, that guy.

Still enjoying a good night's sleep, the two friends awoke. Everybody had gone down, except for one: René. He asked, "umm.. are you going down?". Joanne replied, "yeah, to eat".

When the two friends got out, René was out of sight so they went straight to the vacant tables. Joanne then headed to the counter with all the home-cooked thai meals, ordered and paid. She had no idea that René was only a few feet behind, following her. As she settled back to her chair and laid the food in front of her and Sally, René took the seat next to her. He just sat there and watched the two women stuff themselves. "Aren't you eating?" Joanne asked. "Oh, later, in the morning. I don't normally eat at this hour" was his answer.

When the plates finally left no trace of food, they began another conversation, just as Sally started assisting the American lady from the song taew who was now having trouble choosing which Thai sweets to buy. This time they talked about movies. They thought of how exciting it would be if they played "Grizzly Bear Part 2" next on the bus. A few more laughs later, He learned that Joanne had seen "Goodbye, Lenin", a German film, which caught him by surprise.

The talk lasted for another 30 minutes. Apparently, they share a common interest in movies.

At Khao San Road

05.00-05.15 Hours
Moments after the last 4-hour trip


Despite of the driver's rudeness, and so early in the morning, the passengers managed to get off the bus quickly and orderly. Joanne and Sally couldn't help but raise their eyebrows at the man's behavior. Still wearing me-want-more-sleep eyes, the two friends pulled their bags and guitar from the overhead compartment and underneath their chairs. René, who was still on his seat, asked "so, how are you going home?" Joanne was busy with her bag so Sally was the one who replied "oh, by taxi". Then he said, "ok, I'm going down now", and Joanne gave him a nod.

Upon getting off, Joanne and Sally headed for the taxi. René stood a few feet directly infront of the bus exit, eyeing the two. Joanne's steps were unusually wide, while Sally tried to catch up from behind her. A few minutes later, Joanne realized what was happening so she started to walk back towards the spot where René was. Halfway through, she saw René, already busy talking with other travelers. She never made it. She only meant to hand out her card. She found herself walking back to where she came from. Lost in trance, she hailed a taxi and got in with her friend.

It's still a mystery what went on there, but it has certainly led her to this unimaginable search.

Who is René?

Hoping to fill in the missing gap, this blog has been created. It's quite a long shot but Joanne is hoping and praying that it could still happen. Here are some information:

Name: René L------nen (about 4 to 5 syllables all together; something like "Lachaughtenen" or "Lechenhaughtenen" or "Luthenhaughtenen")

Gender: Male

Nationality: German

Race: German-South African (dad is German, mom is South African)

Religion: Catholic

Age: 29 (turning 30 in October, born 1978)

Height: 5'10" or 5'10.5"

Hair: dark brown, loooong and curly

Eye Color: hazel

Teeth: has two little fangs like Avril Lavigne; all white (non-smoker)

Skin Complexion: natural tan

Previous jobs: worked for train then car manufacturing companies

History: dad used to work for Siemens, met mom on business trip in South Africa in 1976

Hobbies/interests: biking, traveling, music (finally bought mp4 in bangkok for his travels) and movies (Hollywood movies in particular, also the reason for his fluent English skills in spite of his German accent)

Random info: traveled around Southeast Asia (Laos-Cambodia-Thailand) for 3 months (Feb-Apr), and flew back from Bangkok to Germany (guessing Berlin or Munich, anywhere east of Germany) on the 20th of April, 2008; plans to go to Australia next (hopefully before he turns 30); seafood and spicy food upset his stomach hehe