top of page

Day 4: The Craic is Mighty

Bangkok, Thailand

Transportation Chaos

I’m sitting in a night train’s upper bunk, or really just a glorified crevice behind a light peach curtain. I woke up to a Thai conversation below me and loud squeaks as the train goes around another curve. At nine a.m. May 23, we’ve been traveling to Chiang Mai for about 11 hours now.

Roxanne and I spent a lot of time yesterday preparing for this 14-hour train ride, starting the day off with a trip to the Hua Laphong railway station. These transportation pit stops are hubs of noise no matter the country, but much of Thailand’s chaos comes from the taxi and tuk tuk drivers echoing the same advertisements for a ride with each passerby.

We came here to get our tickets for the overnight train, which would double as our sleeping quarters to save us money on a hostel (even though I went wayyyy over my budget yesterday…. Still not happy with that). With the help of some kind railway workers, we were able to purchase tickets no problem, and we left the station feeling calm and confident in our traveling talents.

That changed in about… I’d say two minutes max.

We went walking in search for a nearby temple, immediately heading the opposite direction upon exit of the station. Cool. That was still fine, and we even managed to evade a very talkative tuk tuk driver as we turned around. We got closer to the station and quickly hailed down a taxi to take us to The Grand Palace instead of our original destination, but this taxi driver was a little slimeball of a sneaky stupid man.

Remember the taxi talk earlier? This driver’s meter wasn’t on, and when I pointed it out, he said, “No meter, no meter.” He started to move the car forward, and I, under pressure and without grace, lost all my original calmness. With each of his “no meters” I responded with “meter,” “METER,” “metermetermetermeterMETERMETERMETER.” The language barrier restrained any ability to say more, but you could hear some anger I didn’t know was inside my 5”3’ body. Without any responsive meter changes after a few seconds, I jumped out of the moving vehicle. Roxanne was right behind me. Yeah no scamming Elena Cruz (but you will see a funny sight if you try).

Roxanne pointed out later that his taxi identification card showed a picture of a completely different guy. That little slimeball.

The Grand Palace

Lost of any tranquility or trust in man at this station, we took another taxi to The Grand Palace, this time one without any seat belts. It had a meter running, though, so we were happy.

He dropped us off as close as possible to the palace, restoring some faith in man. Then a volunteer with a curly mustache, circular classes, and an ascot showed us the proper way to reach the palace, amidst our scrutinizing eyes. Turns out a policeman was just behind him to back him up, and he was the real deal. Our trust returned a little more.

We walked a few blocks toward The Grand Palace. I pulled on loose pants over my shorts in the middle of the street, and Roxanne put on a black sweater, as our shoulders and knees needed to be covered to enter. It was hotttt. The Grand Palace was worth it, however.

There is no way to fully describe what we saw, but the towering palace and connected Temple of Emerald Buddha was a sight like no other. It felt like walking through a city of mosaics, where buildings glisten with a million gold reflectors in the sunlight and guardian animal statutes loom in entryways. Our first temple of the trip, we were in awe.

However, wearing an ankle-length skirt and a long, dark sweater in this claustrophobic arena, Roxanne felt sick. This close to fainting, we stopped in the shade and soon left for much needed water and food.

Lots of Food

This brought us to a cute restaurant down the way with some incredible soup and then to a shopping area away from the swarm of tourists called Tha Maharaj. We decided it was time to spend way too much money on a smoothie (about four bucks here, which is the same as in the U.S.), and we sat by the river.

We then wandered around a small night market, but it was just opening and really revealed some impoverished situations of its sellers. Broken down houses, the smell of sewage -- it was sad, and it was a reminder that not all of Bangkok, or any city, is as nice as travelers will think.

Walking back to our hostel, we went into this silly, Spanish-themed outdoor restaurant. It still served Thai food, but it had Mexican flags hanging on the walls and Spanish music playing in the background. The restaurant name was some nonexistent Spanish-sounding word ending in -itos.

It also advertised having air conditioning, but it really just had a lot of fans strapped to odd parts of the walls. We ordered some food and I was about to put “chili sauce” on it, but, surprise, the bottle’s handwritten label was misleading and it was just ketchup. So, so silly.

To the Train

From here, we grabbed our large packs and made our way to the train station once more. Upon boarding, we met another traveler named Alan. He was also going to Chiang Mai on the sleeper, and we just made jokes with this Ireland-native.

He taught us some Irish slang words, such as “class” for the American “cool.” My favorite was his expression of satisfaction: “The craic is mighty.” Still chuckling at that one, as Alan can probably hear from his bed a few feet away.

By 10 p.m., the train was rolling, and I climbed into my top bunk. I wrapped myself not in a blanket, but a towel as the train labeled it, and weaved my legs through my backpack’s straps and arms around my smaller carry-on. Welcome to traveling, where this is the normal way to sleep. Consider it defensive sleeping; the goal is to protect all belongings. This sleeper train was oddly more comfortable than I expected, and probably way more comfortable than other methods of transportation we will be taking soon.

bottom of page