Tuesday 28 February 2012

Sleeping to Bangkok

Before departing Thailand we thought we might visit a place that most people start at - Bangkok. From Chiang Mai, a 13 hour train ride in a sleeper carriage suited us just fine, even more so when we found we had bought two of the last tickets, only available after someone had cancelled. We had never been on a sleeper train before, plus it meant an extra night's accommodation we didn't have to think about. With tickets in hand, we jumped onto the train rather excited.

The train rolled out of Chiang Mai station and was soon in the countryside. It was a pleasant journey as the train worked its way south. The upper berth beds in second class, despite being our only option, were surprisingly roomy and comfortable, although I was glad blankets were provided to shield against subzero air-conditioning. During the day, all passengers sat on the lower seats that would be converted at night into the lower berth beds. The setting sun mesmerised us with rays of orange as we gazed out of the window, while tucking into a yummy seafood dinner prepared by the kitchen carriage.

On our way to Bangkok on the overnight train.

We thought briefly about an early night's sleep, but instead struck up a conversation with our lower-berth-bed-neighbour Zu, who had been scrawling what seemed to be an essay in his journal and taking some artfully composed photos through the window. Zu was a Malaysian freelance journalist who wrote a weekly column for a Malaysian/Singaporean chinese language newspaper, and had just gotten over a one month bout of writer's block (hooray for train journeys!). He had been a traveller for over ten years and the fascinating stories and places he described made us want to see both more of the world and more of Thailand, all at the same time. He confessed to not being a true Malaysian foodie (I suppose not everyone hankers after the piquancy of chilli padi) but he more than made up for it with his ability and passion for picking up languages, an enviable skill. A few hours later we were interrupted, “Please keep it down, some people are trying to sleep”, to which Zu was able to apologise wholeheartedly in Thai on our behalf, before we said goodnight and closed our berth curtains.

We awoke to scenes of the outskirts of Bangkok. It is interesting looking out the windows here as people build so close to the railway; it would easily be less than half a meter between train and buildings. But this is Bangkok, where train lines simply appear to be taking up land that could be used for something else.

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