I’ve been in Thailand exactly a month. This is written as I sit on my upper-bunk, on a train to Surat Thani, but more of that later, because this is where the story really starts…
I started my CELTA course the day after I arrived in Bangkok, jet-lagged and tired, and finished yesterday. The jet-lag went away after about 5 days but I still wake up at three every morning and with the intensive nature of the course, the tiredness has remained. It wasn’t necessarily the best time to visit Bangkok, seeing as large parts of it are underwater. But my apartment block, and the daily skytrain journey to Saladaeng were mostly unaffected, apart from the ever-growing barricades of sandbags in the doorways. As I left my apartment this morning, there were two-foot high boards masticked across the lift doors on the ground floor, as well as the sandbags across the entrances, a new earthwork barricade across the entry roads and the canal-banks were lined with a three foot barricade all through the complex. I was told the water was now ‘just around the corner’.
I booked the overnight sleeper to take me to Koh Phangan, which was supposed to leave at 3.10 this afternoon. Because of the flooding, several stations are underwater so I had to get a rail-replacement bus for three hours of slow, grinding, traffic to start the journey at a suburban station. When we finally arrived, the train sat for another two hours before starting it’s journey. But it’s a cool train. I think we should arrive at Surat Thani at about 9 O clock in the morning, so I’ll try and get some pictures to show you what I mean.
Firstly, despite being a mainline service, it’s narrow-gauge. The rails are one metre apart, 39 inches compared to the sixty seven and a half of the British ones, and the second class sleeping is arranged into cabins of forty bunks.
When you get on, there are wide seats, about a metre across, with the whole carriage divided into back to back booths on each side. There’s a table, and a two course meal with a beer is served to you at a time of your choice. Then the table is taken away, and the seats folded down to make one bunk. Above it, another bunk is swung down from the top of the carriage-side. An attendant does this, and makes up the bed. He clips on a curtain to pull across the bunk, unrolls the mattress and makes up the bed with sheet, pillow and case. It’s all a bit 1930’s. As well as that, the inevitable chain of vendors selling drinks, food and snacks snake past every few minutes. You can stand in the space between two carriages, open the external door and have a cigarette, if you fall out, I guess it’s your look out. The toilet has an open hole to the track below and at about sixty miles an hour, you can pee for half a mile or so! Although it’s only ten o clock, most of the bunks have been pulled down and occupied for the last two hours. I’m the only one with the curtain still open, and I’m definitely going to explore some more before I think about sleeping.
By the time I return to Bangkok, I hope, the flooding will have passed. In all they estimated that four hundred billion cubic metres of water would have to pass through the city to get to the gulf, and it’s so low-lying that even when released, there’s not a lot of gravity to make it want to hurry. I have seen a little of the city, but not many of the tourist attractions. My friend Nok has promised to show me round when I get back. Last night, as a bit of a celebration, Dustin, Jay, Nok and I went on a bit of a photoshoot round Bangkok, taking in the sky-bar, an open-air, stylishly modern bar with live music and spectacular views down over the city. A little tour round in the amazingly cheap taxis and we took in some monuments as well. A very pleasant evening to end the course with.