Thursday, April 28, 2011

To Hua Hin on the train

Bang Sue Station in Bangkok
 We took a train to Hua Hin, where we stayed for one night before coming back to Bangkok.  I love trains!  Riding trains in Thailand is a great way to see a lot of the country, but you will only enjoy it if you are blessed with infinite patience.  If you are in a hurry, don't do it.  The train leaving Bang Sue Station in Bangkok was late.  M informed me this was the norm.  We did not take the more expensive, air-conditioned train to Hua Hin.  No, my friends, this train was a windows-open, no air conditioning kind of train.  The part that will really amaze you is that we paid more to take the subway from M's condo to the train station than we paid for a ticket to Hua Hin.  Hua Hin is a city on the coast, approximately 200 km from Bangkok.  If you want air-conditioning, it is more expensive and also a little bit faster.  According to M, the train we took provided the best adventure.   He was right.
There's a lot of waiting.
 This is how the day went:  get up fairly early and hoof it over to the subway.  Ride the subway to Bang Sue Station.  Walk over to the train station and buy tickets.  Wait.  Wait a little more.  Decide to use the bathroom, as a precautionary measure.  The train arrives.  I think it was only a half hour late.  Not bad.  Climb the metal steps.  Find seats.  Sit down.  The train slowly begins.  After a while, a uniformed gentleman comes to punch a hole in your ticket.  You know he is coming because he clicks his hole puncher all the way down the aisle of the train.  "Click"  "Click click click"  "Click click" 
The ticket puncher guys.
You then discover that the vinyl seat you are sweating on is broken, and tilts down toward the floor.  M offers to trade, but you don't want to sit backwards, so you learn not to wiggle too much.  Once the train is moving, the air coming in the windows actually feels slightly cool.  There is so much to see!  I find the rhythm of trains to be infinitely soothing.  If I weren't so busy LOOKING at everything, I would look just like this man:
While chugging through Bangkok, the train stops ALL THE TIME, and it feels like we will never get anywhere.  However, once we are outside the city, the train really does pick up speed, and I am encouraged.  A chubby little boy across the aisle from me eats sticky rice out of a plastic bag.  We mutually stare.  His mother is busy with the long-legged baby, and I can tell he is missing the undivided attention that was once his.  Food vendors walk up the aisles saying things loudly in Thai that I don't understand.  Some of the food I can figure out, but some of it is a complete mystery.  M has been on the train before and tells me what he has tried.  We buy a sweating soda from the drink vendor who carries a bucket of drinks and a handful of straws.  I practice taking photographs out of the window of a speeding train. 
The further we travel from the city, the nicer the little train depots become.  People get on and off, including new food vendors with new and exciting food.  We eat really spicy noodles and a big piece of satay chicken.  We pay more for the chicken than we paid for our train ticket.  There is a tiny old lady who collects trash, and M says she is the same one he saw the last time he rode this train.  She stays on the train for the entire ride.  Some of the food and drink vendors also remain for the entire trip, although there are vendors who get on while we are stopped and quickly get off before the train starts up again.  Between each station we have the clicking of the ticket puncher.  A note of caution:  even though there are announcements before each stop, they are all in Thai.  So if you are a foreigner, it is really important that you pay attention to the signs in front of the depot.  You don't want to get off on the wrong stop.

The uniformed conductor at one small depot. 
Our spicy noodles, wrapped carefully.
Train lunch.  I was too hungry to take a photo of the chicken.
 It was a long, hot four hours before we reached the beach town of Hua Hin.  We arrived, dirty and sweaty.  Immediately after checking in to our hotel, we donned bathing suits and walked to the beach.  We couldn't wait to get into the water (Gulf of Thailand).  I never knew ocean water could feel so warm.  Hot, one might even say.  It still felt great.  I am sorry to tell you I didn't take one single photograph of the beach or the sea.  It wasn't such an impressive beach, being quite close to Bangkok and rather touristy.   I still have plenty of photos of the journey home the next day.  You will have to wait for the second half of the journey.  I'm all worn out now!


Marjorie said...

What a vivid description of your train ride to the beach! I can feel the breeze through the window and hear the clicks of the ticket puncher

Diana Shay Diehl said...

Thank you for taking us along the journey with you. I love your intimate reflections on what is before you. This is definitely not a 'tourist' point of view.