I went on a train recently – five words that don’t exactly fizz off the screen at the start of a blog and make you gag yourself with excitement of what is to follow, but this was a train in Thailand…an overnight, ‘sleeper’ train in Thailand no less.
I’ve travelled outside of Bangkok a few times since I started coming here three years ago but I had never travelled by train but I’ve always wanted to. A train journey allows you to see more of the country you’re travelling in (that not only includes the views out of the window but those inside the train!)
I had to travel up to Surin which is a province further north from Bangkok and is a much more rural, farmland area. A friend I know was getting married up there and luckily I was invited to experience a traditional Thai wedding, (I’ll write about that soon in another blog but I really want to just write about my train journey if that’s ok with you….? Good.)
With over 20 platforms Hua Lamphong is by far the biggest train station in Thailand. Built in 1916 the station has a hanger like feel, with its high arched roofing making the tannoy announcements even more distorted and unintelligible than normal.
It was hot and stuffy but having made sure I arrived in plenty of time I made my way to the food court to grab a bite to eat before setting off. The Thai’s love a food court – anything with a roof and over a certain size seems to have a food court. I’m not knocking them because they are cheap (usually about £1 per meal) and they taste as good as anything you’re going to get in a restaurant. Having exchanged some money for vouchers (most food courts wont accept cash so you have to exchange for vouchers which is right next to the food court…it seems a little uncalled for but its one of the many oddities that makes me love this country), I made my way to the counters to see what was on offer…
The short answer was ‘nothing’. Myself and the two other gentlemen walked along the different windows only to be met with ‘sold out’. That’s the one down side to food courts and street food stalls – when they run out of food, that’s it, tough, they don’t have any more stock so they’re shutting up shop.
So I walked back to the kiosk to exchange my vouchers back into cash and smiled at the lady as she smiled back at me with the understanding that our whole transaction and time together had been totally pointless, (apart from the exchange of smiles I suppose). It looked like I’d be getting on the train hungry, but luckily there was a coffee shop open so I grabbed a muffin and a coffee and waited for my train, (this part of this story is fascinating isn’t it?!).
After a short while, which included me staring into space and sweating (standard ‘me’ time in Thailand) the big screen at the end of the station flashed up and my train was ready for boarding. Here’s a really arty photo I took of the information screen on the platform with the train in the background…
I was a little surprised to see that the train was quite old. I know I’m not living in Japan with Bullet Trains but for a sleeper train I was kind of expecting something a little more ‘smooth’ looking shall we say. But I certainly don’t judge a book by its cover (apart from the hundreds of Mills and Boons book which have shit covers and shit stories…what? You don’t know what I’m talking about? Here, look at this!)
I mean, look at it! Looks like shit and reads like shit.
Sorry about that, got a bit triggered there. Where was I? Oh yes, I was getting on the train.
As I made my way down the platform I saw an army general walking down the platform towards me and quickly began to think of all the things I’d done wrong (it didn’t take long, I’m practically an angel…)
As the general got closer I noticed him checking people’s tickets…’uh-oh, has there been a mess up with my travel visa again?’ I wondered. (if you havent read about my ‘hilarious’ scrape with the immigration police then follow this link)
Of course I realised quit quickly that he wasn’t an army general (I was building tension as this blog generally lacks it and I want to be taken seriously as a writer with artistic integrity). He was in fact the ticket inspector and was a really friendly man who helped me find my carriage…lovely fellow, I wish I’d caught his name, but come on, he does look a little bit like an army general.
I was now on the carriage that was going to be my home for the next eight hours. I walked along the corridor to find my room but when I’d reached the end of the corridor I realised that the number of my room wasn’t anywhere to be seen…’What the fu…’ I muttered ever so calmly as sweat ran down my neck. ‘Where’s my room?’ I said with all the calmness of a donkey buying a boiler for a house he’s planning on renting out. I began to make my way back up the corridor, peering into each room, debating whether I should just go in one and to hell with the consequences…but what if the consequences are jail, or a telling off from the army general, I mean ticket inspector. This was worse than the The Crystal Maze!
As I reached the end of the corridor again I realised that my room was the first that I’d past but unlike all the other rooms, the door to mine was shut. I clasped the handle to open the door (‘clasped’ makes it sounds more exciting doesn’t it!?) But the door wouldn’t budge an inch, it was locked tight. In the room next to me were too other ‘farangs’, a couple in their mid-50’s who just looked at me as I sweated and tried the door again. At that moment the army general…shit, sorry the TICKET INSPECTOR, walked by and saw I was struggling with the door. With an embarrassed look and a bow he had unlocked the door and I was in to my palatial surroundings. The look on my face must have been similar to Howard Carter, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon as he opened the door to Tutankhamun’s burial chamber…take it all in, peasants.
The room had everything, a bed, a sink, a window (with a curtain) and enough room to stand up in – true luxury travel.
The train shunted its way out of Bangkok station and off into the darkness of northern Thailand. After fully exploring the entire room I realised that 43 seconds had passed in my eight-hour journey and that I should maybe try to get some rest as I was due to arrive in Surin around 5.30 am. So I made my way down to the toilet relaxed with the thought that if my room was anything to go by then the toilet was going to be a thing of beauty, with bare-chested ladies handing perfectly cut pieces of silk to clean yourself up after a sublime poo.
I wasn’t wrong…
I debated whether to post this photo because I am sure the more squeamish of you will feel a rage of jealousy as to how nice this vision of luxury is but then I decided I need to be open in these blogs and you my good friends, need to know the truth.
Anyway, this blog has been going on for ages and I’m getting bored, God knows how you’re bearing up, so I’ll round this up quickly.
I went back to my room to sleep but the wheels and…well, other bits of ‘mechanical stuff’ was so loud I managed about 15 minutes sleep in 8 hours. The wheels were more squeaky than an untrained baboon playing an accordion whilst strapped to a bungee rope.
Thanks for reading this tale of heroism and luxury, if you have enjoyed it please tell me as I need the attention (I hope my amazing sense of humour has shone through in this post).
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Thanks for reading 🙂