Tag Archives: train travel

Version 0.58 (Travel by Train for the “Experience”)

04/29/19

The train is bouncing along it’s track, swaying back and forth like a drunk struggling to stay upright. I’m finally leaving Bangkok, but it’s been almost an hour and we’re still not out of the city, and the air conditioning has stopped for some reason. And the fans too. I just looked at an older Thai gentleman the next sleeper bed over; he had removed his overshirt and gestured to a friend about the warmth and lack of a/c. The lights are out as well, and I can hardly see to write. It’s beginning to get quite stifling in here. Didn’t pay extra for an air conditioned car to not have one. Well, anyway in about fourteen or fifteen hours I’ll be in Trang (I hope). From there I take a mini-bus to Koh Lanta, another two or three hours further. Perhaps I should have just flown to Krabi; I’d likely be in Koh Lanta by this point.

The strange things we humans do for an “experience,” or to save some money….

Well at this point I can barely see to write, So far not a great experience, and far inferior to Vietnam. There may not have been AC outlets (for plugging in a laptop), but at least there were USB outlets so one could charge his phone or tablet. Not that I can’t go without…. The design of the sleeper cars is in my opinion preferable to that of the Thai trains too. They lent to a different, and for me preferable, kind of privacy, because even though I might share a room with up to three strangers, the room has a door, and is closed off to the rest of the train. Here it’s just bunks lining each side of a train car with a curtain as one’s only privacy feature. Sure, you don’t have to look at anyone else once you pull your curtain to, buttttt it’s just a curtain. For me, I prefer a room with a door. And now somebody is smoking. And I’m sweating. And the purpose of journaling was not to complain but this is beyond agravating.

[Later]
Watching an old man who boarded the train fifteen minutes ago. This frail old fellow, mummy-like, skin tight over his old bones so that he looks like an over-cooked turkey pulled out of an oven, his skin like something one could peel in flakes off of his flesh, probably in his eighties ambled on with his son. He reminds one of a little sparrow he’s so frail and tiny—thin arms and legs, large bulbous knuckles like pearl onions, a gold ring on one hand, a silver watch on the other large enough that, looking at him, one must wonder how he lifts his arm. His reaction to the car and the bed, or the bed having already been made seemed to be one of confusion or incomprehension. His phone went off earlier in his bag and his son had to alert him to this fact. The old man fumbles around in its pocket and pulls out pills, batteries to something like a medical device, and a comb, before finally getting to his phone—a very basic, black Nokia, which his son decrypted for him. He’s lying down now, a blanket pulled over him and the curtain drawn. It’s too easy to imagine in the morning his son pulling back the curtain only to find the old man dead….

However, it’s scenes like these that make taking a train or some other form of public transportation preferable to flying.

17 (or 1b)

The sliding by of things: vines and trees tipped with tiny, green leaves; a construction yard, dry and barren as they all seem to be; houses—some with gardens, some without; the slanting shadows of trees in a wood broken by slats of sun; a muddy pond—filthy milk crate on its sodden, muddy shore; an enormous, serpentine river gliding like a great snake, the sun sparkling like splinters of glass on its dirty, green surface that is blue in places of reflected sky; small, white boats tied up to their docks, rocking gently on rippling waves; Y-shaped pillars that look like slingshots, carrying electric cables, marching long into the distance. The wail of the train horn drifts by like a friendly wave. We pass a Filipino Kitchen and a Japanese Restaurant situated on opposite corners in the town of Quantico.

The water in my coffee tastes dirty, unfiltered, like D.C. But it is my own coffee that I brought, so is still much better than what I might have ordered on the train. Too, it tastes a bit of memories, nostalgia, the ever uncertain future, of the last few flower petals remaining on a tree. It tastes of friendship too. The sun is angling through the window ever so slightly, resting lightly on my arm warmingly, comfortingly. I am the most tranquil state of calm. Sitting in this train car, the whole train winding through forest and wetland, over wide, silent rivers with sunlight splashing through the windows, the coffee gurgling inside me like a small child chirping happily (thinking of my nephew right now), I think via train is the most marvelously peaceful way to travel.

I can not put this all into words. Such phony, brittle things they are. There is just the swelling in my chest, and the letting go.

 

I leave shortly on my bicycle. There is still some organizing to be done; packing for a train ride with bike and things is different than packing for a bike ride.

I don’t feel like I’ve properly recommenced my trip, which I guess is true, I haven’t. This is merely an intermission, and a slightly uncomfortable one at that. They always are, though, once the thought of getting back on the bike intrudes. It’s so easy to get comfortable. I’m staying with a friend in Chapel Hill and currently I’m sitting in a comfy cafe with a cup of coffee and a few of my things: laptop, journal, earbuds, a copy of Thoreau’s Walden and Civil Disobedience. A pen. It’s a huge space. Directly in front of me is a trio of couches surrounding a coffee table with a tiny bouquet of spring flowers on it. There are probably another twenty or thirty tables scattered around the place, some cozy chairs, old school desks lining a portion of a wall. In short, a mish-mash of furnishings. The many people on their laptops…

How strange it is that I be here, and they be here, and tomorrow I will be gone but here they will remain. Here they will remain. For a time, at least. And like the spring buds ready to bloom, to then give of their pollen to the insects and birds to distribute around the earth creating something new and extraordinary in the process, and then falling to the earth to be no longer, so too they. In a way. In a way.