December 21, 2006
One of the two places I have been to more times is Thailand. It is a good place for holiday. Besides the bustling metropolis Bangkok there are the rustic charming Chiangmai, the idyllic seaside resort Hua Hin, the ancient city of Ayutthaya and many other interesting places. And Thais are generally friendly and helpful.
I knew of a Thai when he was a student in a sec school in Singapore. He had a house in Bangkok and one in Haadyai. Once I went to Bangkok, his father came to our 3-star hotel in his chauffeur-driven limousine to fetch us to a posh restaurant for dinner. Such warm hospitality. After that I did not want to trouble him again.
My most memorable trip was one which lasted 28 days. We did not fly. It was the days before budget airlines. At that time the return airfare to Bangkok was about $400, now you could get it for as low as $120 with promotions and some luck. Although say 28 days, but about 5 nights were spent in trains and buses and many hours were spent travelling. From Sungei Golok in the east we travelled to Haadyai in the south, then up north to Bangkok, Cha’am, Hua Hin, and Chiangmai. And then back to Bangkok and Haadyai.
Thai trains are very clean (toilets included). The attendants clean the toilets and mop the floor quite often. Although there are carriages for meals, the attendants walk down the carriages regularly selling cakes and hot and cold drinks. Then when the train stops at the small towns, young boys and girls would come up the train selling food like fried chicken and barbecued meat. They would jump off only when the train starts to move.
You could sit by the window and watch the sceneries, mostly farmland, roll by. You might catch the sun setting in the distant hills or see naked boys waving to you in the stream. And where a road crosses the tracks, you could see cars speeding on the road in different directions and you see maths in motion. I am referring to relative velocity, something you learn in school but only in theory. Travelling in a train in the vast landscape you could see and experience relative velocity live.
As dusk falls the attendants pull out the seats and make them into two beds – the lower berth and the upper berth. (This is for second class seats; for third class you have to sleep on your seats.) They will give you pillows with covers that still have the warm freshly-ironed smell. They will also put up curtains to shield your beds.
You wouldn’t sleep soundly because of the chugging engine, the rumbling wheels and the rattling carriages. But this is what makes the journey more exciting and memorable.
You can’t experience all these sitting in an aeroplane.