Friday, April 17, 2009
Night Train to Sarat Thani, starring the Bed Sargeant
How about that political strife in Bangkok huh? It apparently started just after we got in town....literally the hour we were en route to our hotel from the airport. Which means one thing: WE WERE THE CATALYST THAT STARTED THE REVOLUTION. That's right, kids. Seriously though, it was a bit odd to be in a cab seeing all these armed guards w/AK-47s in front of strategic corners of the city...way to make a guy feel welcome, kids.
Anyway, our first day, as we mentioned, was all about Songkhram, the Thai New Year. If you don't know, it's basically an excuse for people to shut down all businesses and have a gigantic water fight in the street. We're talking thousands of people all shooting squirt guns at each other. It was FANTASTIC. I purchased a badass Ultraman squirt gun for 50 Baht (about $1.50) and went to work, while Anita splurged on the higher-end super soaker (which promised "super wet times" or something similar) which didn't work (or worked TOO well, if you consider that it never stopped shooting water). Thai peeps also like to rub an odd white paste on your face as they wish you good luck. I got COVERED. It's interesting too, as it's apparently very much a no-no to touch other ppl's heads here (baddd luck and disrespectful). It's also bad manners to point your feet at images of the Buddha, or at other ppl, as the feet are the lowest part of the body and are FILTHY. Oh Thailand, you so crazy. Anyway, as burnt out as Thailand (or at least the urban centers) seem to be on white-ass "farang" tourists like us, we felt genuinely welcome here and had an an incredible day. You know, aside from the ass who tried to pickpocket Anita in the crowd before I grabbed his arm, gave him my Look of Death (TM), then said "NOT ON MY WATCH MOTHERF**KER" before roundhouse kicking him square in the face and sending him flying directly into the back of a waiting police van to the delight of the crowd who raised me on their shoulders and paraded me around as one of their own. (Note: The true portion of the story ends at "(TM)")
The next day (yep, the water fight took up the whole day...the celebration goes on for 3 solid days), we decided to stay dry and take a longboat around to see a few Wats (temples). So many impressively huge, ornate Buddha statues contained in these giant temples that look like something Indiana Jones would have scoured for treasure before he got all retarded and starting hiding from nuclear explosions in fridges (SPOILER ALERT). Impressive to say the least, and very humbling. We also broke all the rules and had food from a street vendor, and it was one of the best meals I've ever eaten in my life.
But you're wondering about the train, right? Right.
April is the tail-end of Thailand's hottest season, and let me tell you, wandering around and sightseeing in 40C heat (in Fahrenheit, that's also ridiculously hot) is not that fun. Like OMG-I-MIGHT-DIE not fun. Couple that with the protestors vs violent military intervention action that was actually only a few dozen blocks from where the water fight was, and our previous decision to travel via train by night to escape to a little beachy island seemed all the more appealing.
We had second class seating which was pretty comfy and folded out into little sleeper cars, which was good as the train to Sarat Thani was about 10 hrs from 7:30pm to 6:30am. Each car had what I called the Bed Sargeant, a fellow with what looked like military garb who would set up and take down the bedding/seating in every car. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO SET UP THE BEDS YOURSELF. THE BED SARGEANT WOULD NOT APPROVE AND YOU MAY BE PUNISHED. This guy took his job very seriously and I wasn't about to mess with that. Would you? Liar, you would not.
Anyway....so we're on the train to southern Thailand. More to come....