Thursday, October 4, 2012

Train Spotting (I Don't Do Heroine)

The remainder of our stay in Bangkok was a smoggy blur. 
After stress, pad thai, and more stress, our travel plans were up in the air. We had a hotel booked on the southern island of Kophangan, in the days prior to the world-famous Full Moon Party. We just had no idea how to get there. Finally, it was decided that we would take a train. My travel mates took the initiative, and left to talk to the hotel staff about booking a train down south.
45 minutes later, they show us our tickets. And they're not for a train. They're for a 14-hour bus ride.
It'll be an experience, I tell myself. It's something I've never done, I tell myself. The reality is that no one wants to be on a bus for that long. Ever. Myself included. But you buy the ticket, and you take the ride. So I resign myself to a bus ride of hellish proportions.

The next day, most of our group leaves early to ride elephants and see some tigers. A friend and I stay behind, with the intention of seeing some more of the local sights. In actuality, we stumbled through the hangover haze, and made it down the street to meet up with our Kentucky friend from the night prior. One incredible Japanese buffet later, we walked back to our hotel, with the intention of packing and departing. Our travel companions aren't there to greet us, as agreed. T-minus 30 minutes till departure, and they're not there. In the next minutes, my friend and I come to a pleasant reality- if we miss our bus, we'll be forced to take a train. A shorter, enjoyable train ride. Our fingers are crossed.
30 minutes after our bus leaves, our travel companions sprint in, sweating and apologizing profusely. We're all smug smiles for miles. I hate to leave money on the table like that, but the reality is, I'd do just about anything to hop a train through the Thai wilderness. We buy our ticket and wait.

Now, if you know me at all, you know this: I love trains. They're such a subtle part of my life, ingrained in my psyche. They're memories I can't leave behind and feelings that won't change. I think it all stems from my grandparents. They live in Sacramento, California- the terminus for the Central Pacific Railway, one of the two lines that connected the United States by rail. Ever since I can remember, I've been going to the Train Museum in Old Town Sacramento. It's still one of my favorite places on Earth. My grandpa had a train set in  his garage that took up half the room. It dominated my childhood. Picking different trains to run, different combinations of cars and engines. Locomotives, steam and diesel. Tiny houses, tiny people, mountains painted on the walls. I lived in that world. A part of me still does.

The train ride passes without incident. I can't sleep in any position except lying down, so the night passes slowly. On occasion, I get up, walk to the space between train cars, and watch the jungle pass by. I think of my grandparents.
I love trains.

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