South East Asia

The Bangkok- Chiang Mai overnight train from hell

First off, sorry for the silence. In a way it’s a good thing, I’ve been having an absolute ball and for that reason, my blog has been a little quiet and y’all have been messaging me to update it. So I’m back, I’m writing and wait till you hear what I’ve been getting up to…

The last week has been absolutely mental. Crazy, spontaneous and just pure FUN. After my bank card DRAMA in Bangkok airport I had started to work up an indifference towards the big, bustling city. Thai people are fantastic. They’re kind, funny and always willing to help. But in Bangkok its slightly different. It seems in every country around the world, the more tourists that visit a place, the more the locals look to extort us out of our hard-earned cash. Of course I fell for the tuk-tuk scams not once but TWICE in the space of 2 hours. Excited by the thought of getting a tour round the city for only 10 baht (or 20p) I climbed into each tuk tuk unaware that I’d be driven to the places on the map i wanted to see, but also the drivers cousin-in-law’s tailor shop and if I went in for 10 minutes he’d be given free fuel for the rest of the week. I’m daft but I’m not dumb, all you have to do is politely refuse and ask to be taken to your next stop. They’ll grump and groan the entire way but it’s in no way unsafe, they’re just trying to get some commission out of you – and a free suit perhaps…

Now don’t get me wrong, Bangkok is pretty cool. There’s a temple on every corner, street food vendors lining the pavements as far as you can see, and just like Sri Lanka, the tuk-tuk drivers seem to fabricate their own driving rules and speed limits as they weave in and out of the city traffic. However it just lacks that oomf that I look for when I arrive in a new place. Bangkok is big, it’s noisy and for those of you who’re a little wheezy like I am, make sure you pack your inhalers because you’ll be coughing up questionable things after a day of walking around there.

After one full day of walking around and mentally checking off all the things I’d wanted to see, I began to realise I was almost ready to move on and I hadn’t even been there 24 hours. My next stop after Bangkok was always going to be Chiang Mai. It’s the second largest city in Thailand comprising of 200,000 people and a far cry away from the hustle and bustle that is Bangkok. The old city is still carved out from the rest of the town by the ancient walls that surround it (albeit in ruins now) along with the moat that splits the old town from the newer parts of the expanding city. After some research I stood up, put my bag on and hailed a tuk tuk to the station looking for a train that would get me moving to Chiang Mai hopefully sooner rather than later.

Arriving at the station I got the sickening feeling that I wasn’t the only one here looking to do the exact same thing. The ticket counter had a line consisting solely of backpackers and when I got within earshot it seemed they too were trying to get a bed on the 14 hour overnight train which was due to leave in the next couple of hours. As I got closer to the ticket counter a couple of people had began to shake their heads and walk away without purchasing anything and I quickly realised it was because the 2nd class air con beds had sold out and all that was left was a few 3rd class seats in car number 5. The same car that the locals don’t even have to pay to ride in…

The seat was ridiculously cheap. I paid 287 baht (6 quid) for what was quite frankly the worst 14 hours of my entire life. We rumbled through the Thai country side at break-neck speed, coming to abrupt stops every time we arrived at another station along the way…all 42 of them. I dont think my shoulders left my ears for the entire train ride as I downed my third red bull of the journey, determined to stay awake and keep an eye on my luggage in the rails above my head. At every station throughout the whole night, street vendors would hop on board and roam the cars selling mango sticky rice, Pad Thai and an assortment of street food to those who were still awake. Saying that, it was pretty hard to ignore them as they bellowed their products in the same tone as the wee guy outside Glasgow central trying to punt his BIG ISSSSUUUUES. Honest to god I was about ready to have a mental breakdown by the time I got off, absolutely BRUTAL.

But I made it, I survived and I was in Chiang Mai safe and sound, if not a little tired and grumpy I was excited to see what was in store for me here. Getting off that train felt amazing – aside from the fact it was the first time I had stood up/ didnt have a little Thai man sleeping on my shoulder in what felt like around 2 years – I felt instantly more relaxed here. It was a brilliant decision leaving Bangkok sooner than I intended. I was happier, my lungs were happier and I got that feeling I long for when testing the waters of a new place. Big things were coming in Chiang Mai, and I could feel it…

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