I don’t think of myself as a rebel but increasingly I’m finding that I enjoy taking the road less traveled. I guess that’s the luxury of having plenty of time on your hands. A few weeks ago I decided to travel from Bangkok to Phuket for that resort town’s annual Pride Celebration. Most tourists would simply fly from Bangkok and they’d check into a beach resort of some sort. I’m not into resorts and I’ll take the train over a plane whenever possible.
I know that most people would find it far easier to book a ticket on a discount airline. They’d take a taxi to and from the airport, pay an airport departure tax, buy overpriced food and snacks in the terminal, submit to a full body scan and possibly a pat-down, then sit in silence with several hundred other cranky passengers for up to 90 minutes – and that’s just in the terminal. After lining up to board the plane they’ll spend another 30 minutes taxiing around the airport property. Once in the air they’ll breath recycled air, deal with screaming babies, popping ears, turbulence, seat belts, and the elbow of the big guy in the adjacent seat.
They’ll pay an exorbitant amount for excess baggage, on-board beverages, and possibly headphones. They’ll have to turn off their cellphones for at least part of the trip, fasten their seatbelt when the captain says so, return their seats and tray tables to the upright position, and use caution when opening the overhead bins as items may have shifted while in transit. Like anything jammed in there is going to shift!
If they’re able to sleep for 30 minutes they’ll do it sitting upright with an inflatable donut around their neck. Their wake-up call will come in the form of a kid kicking the back of their seat or the guy by the window seat wanting to get up for a pee. On the plus side, they’ll get to watch a Nicholas Cage movie for the third time while sampling the Sifto cattle lick otherwise known as airline-style Chicken Cordon Bleu.
That’s not exactly my idea of a good time. So when time isn’t an issue – and it certainly isn’t right now – I prefer the train.
I will pay a pittance to ride the subway from my hostel to the train station, which is generally in the heart of the city. I’ll show up 20 minutes before my departure time and I’ll whiz through security – because there is no security. Within the first hour of travel I will have had a real conversation with a fellow traveller or two. These people are taking the train because they WANT to, not because they have to. Their attitude is noticeably different.
I’ll measure the distance between seats in feet rather than inches. I’ll be able to bang out a few blog posts on my laptop without having to worry about the guy in the seat in front of me reclining his seat and snapping the screen off my laptop.
I’ll visit the dining car or eat food at my seat that I purchased from a local granny who got on and off the train at our last stop. After dinner and a drink I’ll crawl into bed. Yes, a bed. You know, that horizontal thing with sheets, a down duvet and a soft pillow. If you’re lucky, some guy at the far end of the car will strum Stairway To Heaven on his guitar once the lights have been dimmed.
So, the train it is.
Watch for my next post: Saturday #42: A trip to Hua Lamphong Station