It is funny how excited we both are to be taking a train into Bangkok today. Something we haven’t done in ages. We’ve both loved travelling by train over the years: you have time to look out of the window at the scenery (and day dream as I have always done) and we also invariably meet interesting people. It seems like a great adventure! Funny how we crave out-of-the-ordinary experiences – whatever our ‘ordinary’ is! As we wait on the platform, a ‘local’ expat we get chatting to is surprised we haven’t taken a taxi to get to Bangkok. Much quicker and more comfortable he tells us. That’s not what we’re looking for – we have all afternoon and evening.
Chris, an ex-colleague of Anthony’s who hosted one of my exhibitions in Oman years ago, is now living in Jakarta but working in Bangkok and we haven’t seen him for 3 years already. The train journey is (meant to be) 2 hours according to the train schedule, so we leave Ayuttahaya at lunch time after a quick and tasty road side meal near the station.
Over the last few months, I have often wished I had taken photos of certain things, and then it’s too late as the opportunity has passed. There was another such occasion when the train arrival was announced by a train guard, dressed in immaculate uniform which looked as smart as any military personnel, ringing a huge beautifully polished brass bell. Our train which half freight half passenger stops at the platform just long enough for 3 of the 7 carriages. Passengers get onto the train from the track, on both sides of the train.
We travel 3rd class with natural air conditioning, all the windows and doors are wide open. The train is quite packed so we keep walking back to the next carriage: it is a great old rattly train, all the doors are open – no concern with health and safety here!! The breeze in our faces brings back memories. For Anthony, travelling a train with windows and doors open to the elements is pure joy. He has always loved train travel since his first recollections in 1963 when he was eight and his family returned from South Africa on the Royal Mail Ship RMS Pendennis Castle and travelled by steam hauled trains from Southampton from Durham. He has always like to be able to poke his head out the window – he reckons he probably has some dog in his genetic makeup. Any family members experience the same? Over the years with safely and air-conditioning this opportunity has disappeared in the western world, but luckily for us, not here.
We end up in the last carriage. This carriage, it turns out, is reserved for aged, monks and handicapped, with the last 3 rows reserved for train guards. Oh well, the guard doesn’t mind us being there – we obviously fit in one of those categories!!
Anthony sits next to a gentleman who moved his bags to make space for us but I spotted a spare seat further up the carriage. I get chatting wih my seat companion: my age, this Thai lady has been living in London for the past 25 years, having opened their own Thai restaurant in Kensington. Funny world or rather funny creatures we human beings are. We both left our home countries 25 years ago, she left South East Asia for the UK, and we left the UK for Australia and here we both are on the same rattly train… It’s like our excitement at travelling by train today. Do we not get enough excitement travelling as we do on motorcycles? To both us, it is an exciting experience because it is different to our norm.
We spend a lovely evening in a Cuban bar with Chris, catching up on each other’s news and recent experiences. The return journey took 3 hours but for the memories such a train journey brought back and the new ones it created, it was worth it.