Well, I finally got my wish today – I am sat in a seat next to an open window with the breeze blowing freely in my face watching the sunset very slowly. No windows have been hurt in the making of this blog, and my secret key is not required on this train!
I’m on the twice daily “Cambodian Express” that travels between Bangkok and Aranyapathet, which as you might have read in my recent post, is very close to the Cambodian border. It’s also a train first for me – as I’m travelling in third class – here is a copy of my ticket to prove it.
This costs me less than 50 Baht (£1) for a seven-hour journey. Have I finally gone quite mad in a Colonel Kurtz sort of a way? No, there are only third-class carriages on this train. Of course, it’s just a local train to the locals, but the “Cambodian Express” is what us farangs sometimes call it, as it can have only one true long-range purpose – direct rail travel from the heart of Thailand through to Cambodia…
It’s quite a busy train with lots of stops. The carriage I am in has a toilet (of sorts) at one end and an open plan washroom at the other. The seats are benches and there are fans in the ceiling. There are severe looking metal shutters to keep the sun and any stray projectiles out. Armed railway police and ticket inspectors walk up and down, along with a ladies selling kebabs, chicken rice, fruit and shrimp paste. A sinister looking man wearing a camouflage jacket and Raybans stands at the end of our carriage with a walkie talkie in one hand. The kids sitting opposite me wear Colt firearm polo shirts and play aimlessly on their local android devices. Welcome to Thailand!
The smell in here is hard to define. Strange fruit being peeled, barbecued meat from passing markets and bonfires outside mix with an occasional vegetal stench. A slice of life on each platform – madman chanting, officials dressed in slightly too tightly tailored shirts with big calibre handguns and ladies selling a strange concoction of coke (a-cola) in a plastic bag.
I reach Bangkok in the evening and re-enact the end sequence of “Ice Cold in Alex”. The beer is a bit slow coming and I almost feel I have to explain why I might have a bit of thirst on. Fortunately, I don’t though, as just in the nick if time a lovely Indian lady sits me down and arranges a pipeline of draught Singhas to my table by the edge of the river. A great way to finish another leg of this journey!