My detox attempt isn’t going well. Besides being hungover my legs are a bloody ground beef mess, dozens of mosquito bites and some fresh-looking ones from god knows what. Even though I’m on the sixth floor of this hotel I’m covered in tiny ants. They’re everywhere through my bed. What the fucking fuck. One of my thumbs is sliced open from a beer cap mishap. The other is bruised from jumping down the emergency hatch of the border boat yesterday. My elbow is cut open and looks infected from that same incident. I’m in rough shape, and I’m in the middle of a city with an ongoing insurgency. I’m not sure whether to turn to coffee or beer, but first things first, it’s 11:45 and I’m supposed to be out of this room by 12 so I jump in the shower to rinse all the ants out of my hair and my beard.
Straight to the train station. There’s an x-ray machine at the front entrance but it’s clearly about the illusion of security rather than The Real McCoy. The woman in front of me places a duffel bag on the x-ray and it passes through, but she carries two other bags through the machine with her. It goes off, red light on, but she just walks through and no one glances twice. Wandering around the place over the next couple of hours I found at least two side entrances with no guards, machines or gates.
There isn’t much to do at the station, an outdoor waiting area but the humidity is thick and spare seats are scarce, a sign for a bookstore but empty shelves and a locked door in its stead, a little coffee shop with a Wi-Fi so I hole up there and suck back a few. I consider stashing my bag somewhere and walking around town but torrential rains descend on the city so I stick to the coffee until the ETA of my train.
It’s running late and sitting on the platform the rains cut off and the sun comes out. The deluge has stirred up something in the underbelly of the city; the smell of human waste is strong. It gets to the point that it’s almost overwhelming, not sure how long I can sit here, fortunately the train comes up just as I’m getting ready to vomit on the tracks.
My car is supposed to be an AC’d sleeper car, it’s cool but I don’t see sleepers at first until I realize it’s a convertible deal; never seen this before but the beds collapse into the walls.
We start rolling and we’re traveling at a good clip, probably 80 or 90 clicks an hour, we’re into rural farmland almost immediately. Rice paddies, a few lonely-looking cows, rubber trees and palm oil plantations.
I walk end-to-end to see the other cars, most have their windows wide open. Some of the cars have their doors wide open, I carefully stick my head and then half my body out the side to feel the air going past. The side of the train is dangerously close to arm-choppers like signposts so I don’t stick with this for long.
The restaurant car doesn’t serve booze; apparently it’s not even allowed on the train. I’m the only white person on the train and I get a lot of eyes, not bad ones necessarily but curious ones for sure. With little else to do I devour a book until the railway staff flips the beds down; I climb in, read some more and try to go to sleep. Somehow the guy below me and another across from me are snoring louder than the rail rattle.
In the morning I feel a hand tapping my shoulder. A mask-wearing railway employee insists it’s time to collapse the beds back into the walls. I climb down and sit across from a guy with an Australian accent who asks how I slept. “Like shit, need coffee.” I’m eloquent in the morning light. Buddy’s a pretty nice guy, name’s Christian, from Chile originally but full Aussie now, does electrical work in tunnels, out on rigs, things like that. We talk about plans for Bangkok – we’re on the outskirts at this point – and he gives me lots of good advice.
Christian’s been down in one of the islands staying with a Thai girl he met the last time he was here when he was in hospital. He went to take a slash at a bar, left his beer with the bartender to watch, got on his scooter and woke up on the road with skin hanging off his face and covered in road rash. The bartender had spiked his drink. His girl’d had a cooking oil accident and was in the bed next to him during his time there. Two plates in his face later he decided to come back to see her.
Off the train about ten and neither of us can check-in yet so we find a coffee shop and kill a few hours talking Aus and Chile. We exchange contact info, I grab a tuk-tuk and head to Khaosan Road without a place to stay, figure I’ll nab the first place that looks half-decent.