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Thailand and Laos (and Myanmar if I can manage it)

Hello, Sawatdee kaa and Sabai dee,

My next trip will be Thailand and Laos, and this is all about the before, the trip and the after - similar to my Malaysia/Cambodia blog. I am putting together from start to finish - tickets, do's and don'ts, tours, where to stay, places to see, things to do, as well as useful extras like transport, good places to eat, what to wear, climate, tourist traps, tricks and tips and whatever else I can think of that will be useful.

If you have any tips or advice, please, feel free to leave a comment and add your bit - whatever you think may be helpful or interesting.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

62. Train 13

Above: Train ticket
I picked up my pre-paid ticket in front of the information window. As you can see, it shows the departure and destination points, in this case, Bangkok to Chiang Mai. In the row beneath reading from the left - the train number, date, departure time and arrival time followed by the class, car and seat number and price:
Train 13, for the 10 February 2011 departing 19.35 arriving 9.45, 2nd class, lower berth, car 5, seat 22 @ 881 baht.
On the lower left hand side is Your Name, while on the lower right-hand side is the date and time of purchase.

Above: Railway staff
It was just after 6.00pm, the national anthem had finished playing and these two gents were very happy to have their photo taken. They check tickets, help with information and see that everything is running smoothly

Above: Train 13 - Bangkok to Chiang Mai
It was just as well I happened to check the board near the entrance on the concourse for the train was departing from a different platform to what was showing elsewhere - platform 3. Lucky for me eh? Otherwise I'd have been still waiting in Bangkok while my train sped off into the night.
The blue carriage was the one I was in and the purple one was first class.

Above: 2nd class air-con sleepers - modern type
Train 13 Bangkok to Chiang Mai have very comfortable air-conditioned sleepers. They are arranged in door-less compartments and each berth has its own curtains for privacy. The other three occupants all wanted to lie down and sleep - how come I always get the ones who want to go to bed early?
The train had comfy velour seating, the other ladies said this train was "new" but they liked the older trains better. I can see why - there's nowhere to put your luggage and the beds are so narrow even Twiggy would have had a hard time trying to sleep and not fall out! Try lying on a narrow space with a girth that is on the large side. Fun and games. It was fun though and I'd gladly do it again.

The lady in the berth above me wanted to lie down and read, the other two were on the way to a gentle snore and me - I made my way down to the dining car.

Above: The restaurant car
The dining car was fun - I was expected to buy something for the privilege of sitting there and smoking. (I asked the lady in charge at Hualumphong station about smoking, she told me "You can smoke in the dining car and in the toilets!")

The more popular trains have a restaurant car, some are air-conditioned but ours wasn't. I was glad it was not air-conditioned - you could open the windows and look out.

Above: Sláinte
Cheers! Over the teeth, past the gums, look out stomach, here it comes.

The food was relatively cheap. The "menu" is a leaflet with pictures of food and Thai & English writing. They also sell beer, wine, tea and coffee.

Above: Wine - it's SPY
This is the wine sold onboard, well....what pretends to be wine. Lolly water, not unpleasant by a long shot, just very...lolly waterish - you could down ten bottles and still feel no alcoholic effect.

A young French chap came and joined me and we chatted about this and that and talked travel. He was with his girlfriend he said, but she didn't want to join him in the dining car, she just wanted to lie down. Every now and then he went back to check on her but preferred to sit, drink and talk.

Above: Um...what is it?
The French bloke had come back while I was eating this and asked me what it was. I wasn't sure, the menu said it was chicken, it was supposed to be chicken. We both agreed it didn't look like any chicken we'd ever seen. Those white glutinous blobs had the texture of rubber and were un-biteable. We had great fun dissecting technically what this flubber could be!

Above: American rice
Dinner was forgettable. Don't ever order American Rice, it's nothing like Chinese fried rice which is what I had been expecting, instead you get this rice, flavoured with tomato sauce with bits of carrot in it topped with seven raisins (I counted them), a greasy fried egg, a triangle of sandwich ham and some sort of mini hot dog. I felt like I'd eaten a tub of lard. Needless to say, most of it was left on the plate.

Above: The Rookie and the Teacher
The young fellow in the yellow shirt sat down opposite me - he's a police cadet. I was joined by five coppers (transit police) and one girlfriend. They had removed the top half of their uniforms and had on white singlets, plus their trews and police paraphernalia around their waists. They were great fun.
One was a trainee, and one was from Laos - his name was Ray and he kept showing off and flexing his muscles. The beer flowed (I stuck to the lolly water) and a good time was had by all.

Above: Transit Police
A group photo. We had a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed the train, the atmosphere and people. Much more fun than train travel back home - here nobody worries about what they look like, or making noise. It's raucous and loud and noisy and really a whole lot of fun.

Above: Railway stations
It really is better having a dining car without air-con - you an stick your head out the window when it stops and you get a great view of the stations. Here is
Ayutthaya and Don Muang station.

The next day
I woke up the next morning and it was bloody freezing!

Above: Early morning to Chiang Mai
Everyone else had thick tops and jumpers on. It was 10°C. As the darkness gave way to daylight, I saw wonderful scenery and was very glad the 18.10 train had been sold out. Getting the later one enabled me to really see the beauty of the country side. Those majestic mountains with mist swirling around like a mysterious phantasmagoria.
These photos were all taken from the dining car and let me tell you sticking half your body out the window for a snap going through the mountains at 10° took a bit of doing. The pics might be a little blurry but they are the memories I carry with me of that early morning ride.

Above: Dining Car on Train 13 - Breakfast
Breakfast was a very busy time. Firstly, there were all the hot drinks - so many wanted hot coffee, hot tea, I drank several cups of hot stuff (helps to warm you up), for food, I stuck with two pieces of toast, orange juice and tea. Food was a long time coming I remember - the staff were run off their feet. It can't be easy providing meals to a few hundred people, and don't forget, most of the passengers were in their carriages, so there's lots of meals to be taken to them. They really did do a magnificent job.

Above: Countryside
Daylight had broken, the temperature had risen and there were lots of interesting things to see. I love photos of train carriages going around a bend - if you look at the photo top right-hand side you can see six cars plus the engine. The water on the left side - is it a river, a trickle of a lake or what?
The wee doggie was standing on the tracks quite unconcerned at the train whizzing past.

The train arrived at Chiang Mai on time - 2 hours late as usual but no-one minds, after all, TiT This is Thailand where the trains depart on time (usually) and arrive late (always)!☺

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