Confident that after my midnight train experience from Parma to Rome I could handle any travel arrangement, I booked myself on the 11:30pm train to Bangkok. Actually, it involved a 3:30 boat to Krabi, a mini bus 20 minutes to a larger bus taking us 2 hours to Suratthani where I would wait about four hours for the train.
Along the way to Suratthani you start to notice other travelers going in your direction, and you start to share some laughs at the efficient but confusing system by which the Thai shuffle and corral their travelers.
Lots of stickers in use…
By the time we reached the train station in Suratthani there were four of us. A Swedish couple, Daniel and Sofia, and a Norwegian, Wilhelm, who is currently living in Shanghai. With our trains already delayed we stashed our luggage at the station and ventured off to find some food.
Finding the entire city shut down, we settle for a small food stant on the side of the road with a few tables set on the sidewalk. Over fried rice, some cokes, and four Changs we shared our travels and Wilhelm told us all about living in Shanghai. It was a wonderful way to pass the 3+ hours.
D, S, and W were on a train scheduled to leave 30 minutes after mine (at midnight), but ended up leaving at 12:40 while I waited on the platform patiently and with heavy lids until 2:30 in the morning for mine.
The ride was surprisingly very comfortable. I was in an air-conditioned cabin with about twelve other travelers (some local, some foreign). We were provided with a clean blanket and pillow, and each bed had a little curtain for privacy. Catch 22 – they left the lights on all night. Good for safety, bad for sleeping. However, being the wicked smaht traveler I am, I had a sleeping mask, and soon drifted off to sleep with the whimpers of others as white noise.
Between eight and ten in the morning, a train operator transformed the two levels of beds into two wide cushioned seats as we were ready. Seated comfortably with my kindle for the final few hours, I slurped on some noodles and dumpling being sold by locals who shuffled on and off at every stop.
Reaching Bangkok at 1:30 in the afternoon marked 22 hours of travel, and sadly, I had not yet reached my destination. By 3pm I was at Suvarnabhumi International Airport arranging my ticket on Thai Airways’ 6:30 flight to Phnom Penh. After wiping well over 24 hours of dirt, sand, salt, sweat, and probably my own pee (you’ll soon find out why) off my body with my handy-dandy baby wipes (another smart traveler essential), I changed into the necessary attire for non-rev travel and boarded my plane. After 36 hours of boats, trains, and planes, I was in Cambodia, and instantly in love.