Saturday, January 3, 2015

Train ride to Bangkok - December 25 to December 26. Part 2

This segment focuses on the Train ride only.
Since there was so much dilly-dally on booking the flight, more to the timing of the holidays, we end up taking the train to Bangkok.Unfortunately, when hubby went to book the train to Bangkok, he was told that there was no booking for return trip to Prai or Kuala Lumpur. The return ticket can only be bought in Bangkok itself.
On the morning of December 25, we went out to have breakfast and get hubby to search the 2 banks to pay the housing bills. When that was taken care of, we return home to pack the bags into the car. By then Amir was already up. Around 12:30 pm, Amir drove us to Prai Station for us to catch the train at 3:30 pm. We had to be there 30 mins early.

Trust Zahra' to capture this photo. Well, at least there is something for me to remember
Since the station and surrounding areas were under construction, we had to take such a long walk to the train. Good thing I only had two backpacks with me.

Along the way Zahra' managed to capture some photos. Here's a few of them.
The general view of the station at the time

Not sure where this is

The Eastern & Oriental Express Train. Zahra' and I planted a dream of one day riding this
 train to Bangkok. I know it is going to cost us a bomb but it will be a good experience

Our train - 2nd Class with Berth

Route - Butterworth to Bangkok
After boarding the train and taking our seats, we find that we were near the door that connects to the next coach. This location proved to be 'fatally' annoying as the journey proceeded after our stop at Hatyai. I shared my seat with hubby while Zahra' shared hers with a stranger. Throughout the journey no words passed between them. They both were lost in their own worlds and their books.

Two strangers lost in their own world

We stopped for Immigration checks at Padang Besar. As hubby had done lots of investigation, most bloggers wrote that the food on the Siam train is not Halal. Since we had a two hour stop at this check point, we took advantage of the situation by doing our prayers, had a light meal and buying some food for dinner and breakfast.

While we were busy with customs, the two coaches acquire additional family members. Yes, the original two has increased and our coach remain the last coach. At about 6:00 pm we started our journey and cross the border to Thailand. As it was customary, the Thai authorities wasted no time in doing their rounds. They asked us to show our tickets and checked that the seat number on the ticket correspond to the seat we sat.

The journey started slowly, then it went very quickly and slowed again. There were a couple of stops where passengers either alighted or get off. At every stop, there was bound to be mobile hawkers selling their wares and even though I find this a bit irritating, I decided to ignore them for most part. This is their livelihood and the only way they know how to earn money. 

Hawker stall at Hatyai Junction
But the annoyance is nothing compared to the two neighboring families that kept going to and fro one coach to another. I was already seething with rage so I chose to look out the window. I noticed some parts of the rubber plantation were under water, prove that southern Siam really was flooded.

Rubber plantation under water. Blurry image taken from a moving train
What saddened me most were the houses. All along the river past the rubber plantation, the stretch was dotted with wooden houses that were in shambles, tiny or in a very sorry state. That's livable to the family's standard. I believe our squatters are even better. Couldn't take any photos as the train was really going fast.

The next picturesque scene was the padi fields. Nearly all flat land.

Padi Fields
By now the sun is almost set and in the train, almost everyone was busy having their meals. We ate our meager food and this is more for survival than actually filling our tummy. I am happy with what I have and so to my hubby and Zahra' After relaxing for a few minutes and freshening up we rest for a while until our Coach Guard started his rounds of getting the berth ready for us to sleep. The following pictures showed the Coach Guard in action.

This how the final work looked like

By 9:00 pm everything start to be quiet. Hubby asked me to sleep upstairs while he slept downstairs. Zahra' had made a sleeping arrangement where she slept downstairs and the seat partner slept upstairs. Somehow I dozed off until I felt the train rocking and swaying and I got up. I looked at my watch and it said 2:00 am.I pushed the curtain aside and I saw that my neighbour was up and she was inspecting her children and husband. Slowly I get down from my berth and as mother would do, I checked on Zahra' and my hubby. Both were sound asleep, like all the rest of the passengers. sleep eluded me completely. I then climbed the stairs to my berth and lay down hoping to sleep. I could feel the train slowing down and then stopped. I heard announcements so the train had reached another station. I looked at my watch and 15 mins later the train moved. Half an hour later it stopped again and I strained my ears to hear anything for the stop. It seemed like a long time. My eyes was glued to my watch and I hear another train passed by. This was more than 30 mins. for the next 2 hours it was the same scenario. I stepped down again and find a comfortable sitting position on Zahra's berth. Not knowing what to do except Zikir, I took her camera and started shooting these:

My Berth

Hubby's Berth

Zahra's Berth
This must be boredom to the 100th degree. slowly, my mind went back to 1981. Yes, I was on 2nd class train with berth going to Bangkok with my KESUMA (University Malaya Cultural Group) to perform at various Universities, Colleges and Schools around Bangkok and Chieng Mai. It was lively then. The boys were up making so much noise and playing musical instruments to remain awake. At 4:00 am, I chose to freshen up, then climbed back to my berth and then lie down again. I must have fallen asleep because I suddenly heard "Li, Li, wake up. It's already morning". I searched my watch and saw that it was 7:30 am. I cleared my berth, climbed down and joined my husband. We thought Zahra' was still sleeping. When she got up, she showed me the video she took of dawn breaking.

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