The train to Bangkok yesterday had second and third class carriages, the second class have aircon and I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but it’s hot.
In Sukhothai there was a couple from Barcelona staying in the same hotel. They were younger than us and probably fitter than me. Well definitely fitter than me, and most people are younger than us, and they’d made the mistake of hiring pushbikes to go to see old Sukhothai.
I’d ruled that option out for myself because I knew that I would at some point collapse from heat exhaustion. Absolutely, no question.
To me facing the traffic on a motorbike seemed like the safer option and this was a wise decision, as it turns out.
He told us that he’d almost collapsed and had to spend two hours in the shade under a tree. That’d help I’m sure, but it’s still 40C in the shade and I was sweating on the bike, with the breeze, going at thirty, or forty kph, or whatever, the speedo wasn’t working.
They had the advantage of being Mediterranean as well, and more used to higher temperatures than us pastey North Europeans.
They didn’t get to see old Sukhothai that day and rented a motorbike the next morning.
Jomtien beach, Pattaya. A bit of a dump.
There had been the option of a VIP bus from Phitsanoluk but we’d thought the train would be cooler and more comfortable. We were probably wrong.
I can’t explain how utterly, utterly dispiriting it feels when you realise that the aircon is completely inadequate, how your heart sinks in despair when it hits you that you will be sweating a gallon an hour from each and every single pore of your body, how, after twenty minutes of this hell you begin to wish all kinds of ill fortune beget the man who’s in charge of maintenance.
Your shoes will be wet, your shorts will be wet and your t-shirt especially will be wet, and for seven hours you will be wishing and praying for this journey to end so that you can get away from the relentless, crushing, soul sapping, sticky dripping heat.
The feeling of my own sweat running from my chest down into my shorts is perhaps one of the least comfortable I’ve ever experienced, worse than when I accidentally sat on a fire ants nest, and I began to wish I had old man’s massive eyebrows to keep the sweat from my eyes. My own, middle aged man’s eyebrows, even though they’re thickening up nicely, just aren’t up to the task, not like Patrick Moore’s, for example, and every few minutes I was rubbing stinging sweat from my eyes with sweaty hands.
As it happened the train journey didn’t take seven hours like we’d expected it to, it took eight and a half. Ten minutes more and I swear I would have cracked and told them everything. We finally got into Bangkok station.
There’s a big arched roof, and a fine water mist being sprayed from atomizers. I wept in gratitude for the man who’d thought of that, and I wish him and his family a long and lucky life.
There’s one bus to Pattaya a day and it leaves at 6.55. Oh. Brilliant.
So we had to book a hotel for the night. We didn’t want to go far from the station and found a cheap place just a couple of hundred meters away. Aircon was a necessity, a must. A night without aircon was unthinkable.
We got a room with aircon but shared bathroom. It was a very small room and the aircon was very noisy, but as soon as you went out of the room the heat hit like a dragon shouting in your face.
We showered and went to find food.
We could only imagine that the train station end of town ain’t where people go to entertain. I wanted a pizza or something. For the love of God! no more fried noodles and pork!
There was nowhere that sold anything other than fried noodles and pork. One little side street cafe had spaghetti on the menu, but they fry it, like noodles.
I’ve grown very partial to iced lemon tea, so I had that with my fried noodles and pork and we went in search of WiFi so we could look up busses. We went back to the room about 8.30 and read.
Who’d have thought it would be so much more difficult to use orchids rather than a postcard?
This morning we were up at the crack.
A bus to Pattaya takes 2 hours, and the train takes 3 hours 40 minutes for some reason. On the other hand the train costs 31 bats each and leaves from just over the road and the bus costs 300 bats each and we’d have to get a taxi to where it leaves from.
So here we sit now, just over half way to Pattaya and there’s another 40 minutes til we’re supposed to get there. I can’t see this happening.
There’s only third class on this route, but we’d studied the forecast and it’s still in the low thirties by the time the train gets in and all of the windows are open. This helps you cool down hugely and I’m thinking it’s probably better than second class with its asthmatic aircon and windows that don’t open. I’m sweating, but not to the point where I’m aquaplaning on my arse.
It took an hour and a half to get out of Bangkok. The first time we stopped was after about ten minutes. The train stopped frequently at crossroads to let the cars go by. I’m not joking, the train gives way to the cars, and at the places where the train stops, shacks have been built so you can get out and buy breakfast and perhaps lunch too.
When finally, thirty minutes later we set off again, we passed many other shacks built within a few feet of the line. In places I’m sure I could have reached out and mortally injured myself on someone’s tin roof. That would be a surprise, a hand hitting your wall while you’re eating your noodley and porky breakfast.
You see people on motorbikes passing within feet of the train down mud paths, washing lines, people eating pork and noodles for breakfast and dodging hands, shacks built on stilts in swamps, and then you look out of the other window and you see new shiny developments with gates and expensive cars parked in private multi storey car parks.
The poor are more of a shock to see in Thailand because they live so close to the richer people, and it looks as though there’s a tolerance. I may be completely wrong but that’s the way it seems, and you’ll see them all the way out of Bangkok, for maybe an hour and a half until you come out of the city and start seeing more trees and the odd patch of grassland, and then the suburbs and then out into the fields.
We were the only westerners in the carriage, the last one carriage, with our rucksacks and the daypack that I keep right close.
People get on the train with a basket of pork and rice, or a bucket full of ice and drinks, or the worrying looking very lightly cooked sausage stuff and pork balls and chicken, and they come up and down selling what they can.
I can’t see that going down well with British Rail myself, but these are just ordinary folks trying to make a living however they can.
We bought barbeque pork and sticky rice yesterday for 20 baht, and it was really very good.
It comes in plastic bags like everything here does. They have a fantastically complicated way of sealing it with elastic band and a load of air so the bag is inflated like a porky balloon. They like that, and even a bag of crisps or nuts in a 7/11 is at least thirty times bigger than it needs to be. The transportation costs must be proportionally bigger too, but to say they’re environmentally unfriendly would be an understatement. They seem to hate it and I expect they’d probably get really angry and smash its face in were they to meet it walking down the street.
The train trundled on another two hours or so while I hung out of the window like a dog in a car, frequently dodging back inside because they don’t cut back the plants, and they’re pretty pointy and sharp. And the signposts by the track are very close, you could easily lean out and take your bloody arm off.
We were late getting into Pattaya but there was a Songthaew waiting to pick people up so we jumped into the back. I say jumped, we heaved and struggled to be honest and fifteen minutes later we were at the resort that Nel had found online. And very nice too. The nicest place we’ve stayed at yet. Also the most expensive, thirty two quid per night! Probably still not as much as a night in a Travelodge though.
This is our last four nights now before we head off to Kev and Jayne’s on 20th.
Mostly the hotel is full of Chinese, and old and fat Russians.
Pattaya has a reputation as the kind of place where wretched westerners come to meet Thai girls.
It’s a full on, go-go, ‘hello,welcommme’ kind of place and not where we’d usually go, but it’s pretty close to Bangkok and Francesco and Tomu live here.
We’ve hardly left the the first day.
It’s a massive room with a really nice bathroom that has two shower heads. Two! Why?
There’s a writing desk, a massive tv (television) and a bed so big that we can ignore each other all night, but best of all, best thing ever, there’s a really brilliant aircon unit, big and white and cold and lovely.
There’s a real nice pool too.
I just realised that we’ve made a monstrous mistake. We booked four nights here by mistake, we’ll only be staying for three. I don’t imagine we’ll get our money back but we’ll try.
That’s the kind of thing that happens when you’re staying a couple of nights and moving on. You get confused.
Yesterday we walked along the beach. It’s not a very nice beach, all coarse sand like gravel that get into your sandals and sandpapers your feet into soggy stumps.
We were heading towards Walking Street, where the shops and go – go bars are, but we didn’t make it, far too hot, so we came back for a nice refreshing dip in the cool cool hotel pool.
We went out for a drink last night, but this place is crap. Really, really crap. There are many bars full of miserable looking fat sunburned westerners watching football. You could get the impression were you a bit cynical that they’re not really living the dream that they thought they would be when they divorced their wives ten years ago for a slim twenty five year old Thai girl called Tit, or something, and they just can’t bring themselves to admit that they made a monumental mistake because all their friends back home think they’re having a brilliant life.
I’m not sure we saw even one of them smiling.
We walked past twenty bars trying to find one that looked less sad and finally found one where a hilarious man was playing Elvis songs on a keyboard and we had fun trying to guess which song it was he was playing. They were all pretty much indistinguishable, you’d think you’d got it, ‘that’s Jailhouse Rock that is,’ and then realise it was actually Blue Suede Shoes.
A lingerie shop drove by with a load of bra and knickers mannequins, and I wish I’d had my camera handy for that.
We quickly got bored of the Vic Reeves Elvis impersonator but we don’t care because we’re only really here to relax for today and meet up with Francesco and Tomu tonight again before we’re off in the morning to Kev and Jayne’s.
It’s a two hour trip and we’re seriously considering getting a taxi for twenty quid or so rather than a bus and then have to get across Bangkok in forty degree heat with rucksacks to where Kev and Jayne can pick us up from.
Nel let one go in the shallow end.