..and the 3rd overnight train too many. I can't say that I'm a huge fan of overnight trains. The whole argument that it saves money on lodging (since the train has a bed) is bogus in my mind. Train beds should not be qualified as real beds ever. If I cannot turn over in bed without falling off, it's not a true bed.
Perhaps I should back up. Rewind to September of 1997. I'm 12, going on 13 (picture middle school awkwardness, with permed bangs and everything! Oh yeah, it was bad). I was on my way to northern Russia (like above the Arctic Circle, near Finland) as an exchange student. I was traveling with a group from my school and had a 26 hour train ride from St. Petersburg to the town where we would be staying for three weeks. I'm not sure what we did for that long on the train, as this is before iPods and DVD players--I think I remember having to do some science homework, but that couldn't have taken the whole time. Anyway, the climax of that trip was receiving lice from the bedding, which I didn't discover until about a month later, due to said perm. It was a great trip overall, but the train part was definitely not a highlight.
Fast forward to January of 2004. I had just spent the month in Germany with my college and we had a few free days at the end of the trip. I went to visit my friends from camp who were from Prague. The trip would have been a lot quicker if I left from Berlin, but we ended our group travel down south in Bavaria. So I had to travel across most of central Europe in order to meet up with them in Prague. That overnight trip was characterized by a very loud snorer and some shouting border patrol demanding passports at like 4 AM. Again, a wonderful, but cold trip, where the overnight train was underwhelming.
Now the present--February 9--but on another continent--Asia. We managed to score front-row seats on the flight and we landed in Bangkok with an hour and a half to get to the train station. The flight attendant told us to expect it to possibly take that long with traffic, so again we found ourselves holding our breath, hoping that everything would go okay. It actually only took maybe 40 minutes, so we had time to grab some dinner at the train station. Dessert was probably the most exciting thing, as there was both Dunkin' Donuts AND Dairy Queen. I had my first blizzard in months and I bought a donut for breakfast. When we got on the train, we discovered that our tickets were second class, which meant no AC. Now, Thailand is pretty close to the Equator and no AC=one stuffy night. Thankfully, the windows were wide open and the ceiling fans were blowing, but it was still a bit warm. It was really fun to ride through the suburbs of Bangkok, the city just seemed to go on and on. Around 9, they came around and made up our beds. We all had top bunks, which was fine, but we either could close the curtain and block the fan and keep the light out OR we could have the curtain open and feel the fan but let the light in. I chose to feel the fan and suffer looking at the light; I can't say that I actually feel asleep, but such is life. It was an interesting experience, especially with an elevated squatty for a toilet (if you thought a squatty potty was fun, try one on a train!) Anyway, we got off at around 6 AM, only to hire a van to drive us to the coast, where we later caught our ferry.
The ferry ride was wonderful; it was warm and sunny and we decided to sit out on the deck. Remember how I said that Thailand is close to the Equator, well, we forgot what that meant in terms of how powerful the sun is. There's nothing like arriving to your tropical designation already sunburned--definitely not the smartest thing I've done in my life!
Here's some pictures:
Lindsey, me, and Megan right next to the emergency exit on our way to Bangkok.
Pulling out of the station in Bangkok.
Karri, me in the background, and Jamie getting settled for our 11 hour trip. (Notice the free space above our heads, that's where our beds were hours later.)
The man who came around to make our beds, the metal near his back is the steps/luggage storage for the top bunk (also notice the huge fan to circulate air at the top).
The peaceful Thai landscape.
The foggy Thai landscape.
The blurry (think: artsy photo) Thai landscape.
Each person in our group took their picture outside of the train.
It was quite the (dangerous) process.
We got off at Surat Thani and hired a van to take us to the coast.
Loading the ferry.
Soaking up the rays on the ferry to Koh Phi Phi (me, Megan and Jamie).
The next installment: Our eventful arrival on Koh Phi Phi.