A visit to 319 countries and territories

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Ray Woods likes to travel. Ray’s grandmother, a Cherokee Indian, told Ray when he was a kid that his mission in life was to travel and to come back and reassure his family that the people he met were friendly. So, Ray took her literally, deciding to visit all 319 countries and territories listed as destinations by the Travelers’ Century Club.

The Travelers’ Century Club is a non-profit social organization open to world travelers who have visited 100 or more of its destinations. Member Ray Woods told the Pattaya City Expats Club about his travels at their Sunday, March 17 meeting. Ray visited the 319 countries and territories in about ten years, ending in 2010. He visited about half of the destinations by himself; for the other half, he linked up with other world travelers. Ray said that there are fifteen people who claim to have visited all 319 destinations. It’s all based on an honor system, since it would be very difficult to provide proof of each visit.

MC Richard Silverberg opens the PCEC’s 17th March meeting, inviting new visitors to introduce themselves.MC Richard Silverberg opens the PCEC’s 17th March meeting, inviting new visitors to introduce themselves.

Ray described how he was part of the first group of Americans to visit North Korea. The group was accompanied by two North Korean guides who showed the visitors the best things about the country and who asked them to say good things about North Korea. One of his early trips was to the People’s Republic of China. He went with a group of travelers out of Hong Kong who travelled to the Chinese border area. Ray noted that he was the only one of the group to go right into China.

Ray indicated that he was the first tourist in Afghanistan after the overthrow of the Taliban Government. He recounted an incident going through the Khyber Pass in Afghanistan when the vehicle he was travelling in came across two men standing in the middle of the road with sub-machine guns. The driver was very nervous, but the driver and Ray were relieved that it turned out that the men were just looking for a ride. Ray said that this was the most dangerous moment he encountered on his travels, and that for the most part he was quite fortunate.

He mentioned that seven countries claim parts of Antarctica – Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, Great Britain, New Zealand, and Norway. Ray has visited all seven parts and commented that the Antarctica trips were the most costly ones he took describing their remoteness and the efforts needed to visit. Like Antarctica, he explained that some countries are more difficult to visit than others, and that a certain amount of common sense is required. Ray did cross over the border into Syria in order to add that country to his list, “but no one in their right mind would go to Damascus today,” he said. Other destinations included in the list of 319 are also quite remote – including the Pitcairn Islands near Tahiti in the South Pacific; Easter Island, also in the South Pacific; and Jeju Island, off the coast of South Korea. For the more difficult destinations, Ray said, it helps to have a guide.

‘Hawaii Bob’ Sutterfield introduces friend & fellow member Ray Woods, to tell us of the ‘The Travelers’ Century Club’‘Hawaii Bob’ Sutterfield introduces friend & fellow member Ray Woods, to tell us of the ‘The Travelers’ Century Club’

Ray mentioned that some of his trips were planned three years in advance. There are often challenges in obtaining visas in time. Ray revealed that he had to have two passports because one was often tied up in the visa application process.  One of Ray’s more eventful trips was to the Central African Republic (CAR). One day, his scheduled plane trip was cancelled. Ray met a woman from Cameroon who was living in the U.S., but who was in CAR at that moment. She calmly explained that the President of CAR took the scheduled plane that day for his own use, but that the plane would be back the next day.

Ray first visited Thailand in 1963 when there weren’t even any guide books. Ray stayed with the family of a Thai student he had met at the University of Kansas. That visit included a 22-hour train ride to Chiang Mai. In response to the question did he heed travel warnings from the American Department of State; he replied “No,” because “if I did, I wouldn’t go anywhere.”

Ray was born the U.S. about 71 years ago. He is a graduate of the University of Kansas and performed service with the Peace Corps in the Philippines in 1965-1966. He now resides in Thailand with his Thai wife. The website of the Travelers’ Century Club is http://travelerscenturyclub.org. There is another, similar club called Most Travelled People (http://mosttraveledpeople .com).

Master of Ceremonies Richard Silverberg provided an update on upcoming events and called on Roy Albiston to conduct the Open Forum where questions are asked and answered about Expat living in Thailand; Pattaya in particular.

For more information about the many activities of the Pattaya City Expats Club, visit their website at www.pattayacityexpatsclub.com.

Member Philip Morris invites all to visit Buriram with him, including the PCEC ‘Friends of the PDA’ supported village of Ban Kok Klang Noi. The PDA (Population Development Association) was established by Mechai Viravaidya to help rural women plan their families; at that time family sizes of 7 - 8 were not unusual. Now the family size is a much more sustainable 1 - 2 children. The PDA evolved to become the preeminent NGO helping in AIDS prevention in Thailand.Member Philip Morris invites all to visit Buriram with him, including the PCEC ‘Friends of the PDA’ supported village of Ban Kok Klang Noi. The PDA (Population Development Association) was established by Mechai Viravaidya to help rural women plan their families; at that time family sizes of 7 – 8 were not unusual. Now the family size is a much more sustainable 1 – 2 children. The PDA evolved to become the preeminent NGO helping in AIDS prevention in Thailand.

Ray has been a member of the Travelers’ Century Club for 13 years, and has visited 319 countries, including territories. Rays’ grandmother was Cherokee Indian, who told him his mission in life was to travel, and to come back and reassure his family that the people he met were friendly.Ray has been a member of the Travelers’ Century Club for 13 years, and has visited 319 countries, including territories. Rays’ grandmother was Cherokee Indian, who told him his mission in life was to travel, and to come back and reassure his family that the people he met were friendly.

Ray points to the Antarctic territories, and has visited them all. One of the cruises here cost almost 1 million baht.Ray points to the Antarctic territories, and has visited them all. One of the cruises here cost almost 1 million baht.