Bangkok to Chiang Mai - the night train
I knew I would chalk this trip up to being an "experience". A positivity-skewed way of warning myself that it might be shit. I'm no backpacker, and have always been an aspiring snob, so I knew a 12-hour overnight ride on a rickety Thai train would not be the glamorous travel of my (or Wes Anderson's) dreams.
Due to some last-minute scrambling we couldn't get 2 first class cabins so poor Josh (Rebecca's friend from London) had to slum it with the budget westerners back in second class.
Our little cabin was private but basic. The mud-brown bench was to fold up into 2 bunks. There was a tiny sink and mirror, as well as a small fold-down table. We had some lovely pink curtains so our neighbors rolling down the hallways couldn't see in. We ordered dinner and snuck in some Jack Daniels shots, while listening to our monk-next-door's second-hand TV shows (watched on a phone, I assume). Dining on your lap facing a metal wall is super glam, especially after you've pierced through cling-film to get to it. It tasted fine but for the first time since I've been here, my food came back to haunt me. (more on this later)
The Dining Car
Ready to explore, we lurched down to the "dining car" to... I dunno, drink martinis and play poker? Picking my way over shoes and suitcases through second class made me grateful for our little box. These cars were like rolling hospitals. Bunks shielded by green curtains, people in varying states of intimate and relaxed undress sleeping, chatting or cuddling their kids (Northern Europeans are a different breed of parent). I was invading an involuntary dorm where the residents were committed to keeping their spirits up, despite the unusual lodgings.
The dining car made me laugh. Out of discomfort, probably...possibly horror. Bare-bones metal, industrial colors and bizarely: tartan table-cloths. Our sexy apres-dinner aperatif was a roll of Oreos. Bored with the lack of sparkling conversation or international intrigue, we headed to bed.
"Sleeping" on the sleeper train
Bed was ready to go, our bunks had been made up and looked clean and welcoming, but sleep was to elude us. I drifted off fast, but woke up to the clinking of the door latch hitting the frame. It had been ajar for hours and closing it involved a few minutes of pushing, jiggling and cajoling. Secured back in bed, I lay sleepless with the fear that it would open again. At 1 am, your rational senses don't stop to tell you that very few people on this train were secured in, rather they were out in the open; so why on earth would this imaginary robber/rapist pick me? Oh well, there wasn't much time for that obsession because the aforementioned plastic dinner started squeezing my insides. Not nausea, thankfully, but tense and prolonged stomach cramps. So I rolled back and forth to the stopping and starting of the train until 4am, planning my vomit strategy that luckily never came.
There wasn't much scenery on the way into Chiang Mai. It was foggy and the trees looked like they just gave up being green and went with a water-efficient brown leaf. We were into the station soon after daylight and hurried through the cold to get to a song taew and hopefully a hot shower.
We flew home.