I was leaving Bangkok, or so to say, the suburb of Bangkok to move to Chiangmai. I bought my ticket that would stop in Rangsit station of Pathum Thani province at 22.57 for just one minute, enough for me to jump on the train.
Jay, my Thai friend, was kind enough to take me to the station. The funny thing is, Jay lives a 2 min drive from the train station and it looks like she had never been there. “This is not what middle class Thai people use, shares Jay. We have had a government campaign, cutting taxes for car buyers, so at some point the government really promoted buying cars. This is not a safe place, she says, the police regularly come here to check on drug dealers and prostitutes.” Sounds pretty safe to me, Ukrainian police rarely checks on anyone.
We arrive at the train station and park in the middle of the muddy puddle dug out by Italian-Thai, the company that had been building something in this area ever since I came to Thailand for the first time five years ago, and nothing changed since. There are two railway workers at the station, one selling tickets and another whistling for the trains. There are some cute people with little bags, and a funny grandma with a straw hat selling water. I am the only one with a big ass bag and even a bigger backpack, full of books. I’m moving to Chiangmai. I want to feel the distance by train. I want to sleep as much as I can, to read my book and meditate in the morning and to see how we are entering northern Thailand. A bus journey cannot give me such an experience.
When the train arrives to Rangsit at 23.15 we are already waiting and another train station worker appears, a little tipsy, he is smiling and helps me carry my bag. Now he will throw me into the train. This resonates with childhood and summer trips to my great grandma’s house, which was a similar distance away from home as Chiangmai is from Bangkok. We would often run late for the train and as children, got thrown in by adults who were staying to the adults who were going with us. One time we sneaked in a guinea pig onto the train secretly, and my grandma did not notice, but my mom forced me to give it away later…
Yes, you are right Jay, middle class Thais do not ride these trains, they are completely full of farang, foreigners, white people, travellers, backpackers. There are three options – a seat, a berth with no AC (570 baht) and a berth with AC (870 baht). To compare, a bus will take you to Chiangmai for around 550-600 baht in 8-9 hours. Riding a train in Thailand is an experience and you don’t come here if you merely want to get somewhere.
I wake up, meditate and lazy around enjoying the process of moving to the norht. I have an instant coffee at the restaurant car. Nature watching out of the window, we are passing a lot of little stations in the middle of nowhere (Khun Tan, Lamphun) and I make a note to come back here for a weekend one day trip. Completely chill, the train and I are sharing the same vibes, no rush. We are arriving to the north, and it feels as if I were visiting my great grandma again for a long summer vacation. I am sure in Chiangmai I shall meet my new Thai grandma.