Sleeping in second class accommodations, feeling like a first class citizen, we are on the train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. The train left the station at 4:00 PM after a tall bottle of Chang (of course) and set to arrive at 6:30 AM tomorrow. It’s only 7:57 PM, but it’s quite dark as we traverse through the countryside. I’ve already said goodnight to Derek, in the same car but one compartment over from me. We met three lovely Londoners traveling Thailand – Alice and a couple Roddy & Beth. (From our conversation with Tom & Tam from Adelaide, Australia a couple nights ago during the cooking class in Chiang Mai, I’ve decided to have a go at bringing ‘lovely’ into our normal everyday American lexicon,) It’s time to turn in for the night. Time to turn into our thoughts before whatever dreams lay wait for us.
Mine easily transports me back to my early childhood, to when I still lived in India. And I remember quite romantically my times traveling on the train with my parents. Ever since, I’ve had a love for them. There is something about the turning of the wheels, its up and down rhythm against the tracks, and the car’s swaying on the tracks, the low hum as it keeps speed, and finally the roar of the whistle and screeching of the wheels as it enters and leaves the station that both calms me and excites me, simultaneously. Among my earliest memories are that of when I must have just been a wee toddler and I was with my parents saying goodbye to my Leelauntie. She was just a very young woman back then; she still is, to me. I can still see her in my mind, the way she looked then; and even when I said goodbye to her over Thanksgiving in Seattle, she looked the same. When I was 27, I rode the train with my Uncle Sonny from Cochin to Nagpur, seeing India the way it was meant to be seen. My biggest thrills involved standing firmly on the bottom step, grabbing onto the railings as I extended my entire body outside the train above the tracks and whatever terrain through which we were speeding. It can be dangerous if I wasn’t careful; but it’s almost impossible to keep from doing it. I loved the wind rushing through my hair. Traveling by train reminded me of simpler times.
Derek and I made fast friends with our train mates, as we normally do (which was why the fact we did not connect with anyone on the mini-bus ride to Chiang Rai yesterday is still as mystery to me). Our train mates were fun. Beth decided to become the star of a couple of my video productions as we were filming life on the other cars. Sadly, we found out that our accommodations were not nearly as nice as those in some of the other cars. Still, I didn’t mind. I’ll trade nice accommodations (on a train) for fun times any day, especially on this one night to Bangkok. We came upon the busy restaurant car where the staff were having a good laugh at us watching us bite into a most horribly tasting hard fruit. I spit it out the window immediately, the staff roaring in laughter. It, however, only lifted our spirits. Dinner was also marginal, at best, and for 920 baht between Derek and I, it was, by far, the most expensive dinner we’d had. It too could not deter us from our wonderful journey. Our dining experience in Thailand (save for the food poisoning and the 12 & 24 hour bugs) had been splendid.
Derek and I spent some time sticking our bodies and heads outside the door to film footage, talk on camera, and take in the scenery. On five different occasions, we were given stern warnings by the train staff advising against it; on one occasion, that stern warning seemed a lot like yelling, but I was bigger than them, and I couldn’t understand Thai. I would go back to take pictures. Not surprisingly, the terrain was filled with lush greenery. Mountains provided the background. Rice fields and banana trees were plentiful. Thailand is blessed with a beautiful countryside. With the train cutting through its landscape, it made for quite a beautiful picture, and with the sun setting, the picture became that much more spectacular.
If you ever have the chance to see your country by train, do it. You will never underestimate the beauty of your land ever again. And that beauty will always stay with you.
Go Adventure. Go Travel. Go Live
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