I’ve had a pretty dismal weekend in Pattaya, even though I had pretty low expectations.. More of the story in the book! I’m keen to escape and I have secured a ticket back from the seaside to Bangkok. The first problem in my escape plan is finding the station. When I tell locals where I’m going they look at me like I’m a bit mad, and three out of four taxi drivers say it doesn’t even exist before offering to try and find it for 300 baht. But eventually I find a driver who says he knows it and takes me round to the back of a housing development on the edge of the city – and there in all its glory is the station, well more of a halt. In common with nearly all Thai railway stations, it is clean and tidy, flowers adorn the single platform, and the staff are highly courteous. I ask the stationmaster if the next train is the 4.30 to Bangkok, and he says no it is not, it is in fact the 16.26. Very Swiss.
The 998 Rapid might look a bit familiar to you if you live in the UK. It was built in Britain on the plans of a Class 158, but inside the carriages are a bit different. The seats recline and swivel, the air-con is powerful and the windows have curtains. My ticket has a seat number, and the guard checks all his passengers are in the right spot.
The stationmaster signals with his green flag, the bell rings three times and the train revs its engine, taking off as if it were a car with a failing clutch that seems to regularly slip in and out of gear. The speeds might be rapid compared to the normal weekday train as this is a special weekend service, but I suspect we never quite reach 30 miles per hour.
My ticket cost 170 baht. I’m not sure if that is good value compared to the Nam Tok ticket (100 baht), but this is a better standard of carriage.
It takes us a couple of hours to reach the outskirts of the city, and then the heavens open, the roads are quickly flooded, and we slow down to pass all the level crossings at a crawl. Eventually we slide into Hua Lamphong about 20 minutes behind schedule – a trip of nearly 3 hours, but that’s only a few minutes longer than a good run in a bus, and on a Sunday holiday weekend I bet it would have taken much longer by road.
The guard helps me with my luggage, as its quite a tricky climb down to the low platform, and wishes me well. I’m very impressed with the turn out and helpfulness of all the staff I have come across so far.
I’m back at HQ in time for a couple of beers before bed. Tomorrow is another big train day!