Slow train to Aranyaprathet
After 2 days in Bangkok seeing gilded palaces and temples, waiting for our Vietnamese visas to process and attempting to avoid the hordes of touts on Khao San Rd where we mistakenly spent a night, it was time to leave the big city.
We left the heavy backpack filled with climbing gear with Mark’s friend Hunter, who lives off the last stop on the skytrain and is starting a new job with Microsoft next week. Hunter has spent 2 1/2 years in Thailand and in addition to introducing us to delicious spicy catfish salad, he taught us a little about the Thai language. The grammar is quite simple; there is no verb conjugation and to indicate tenses you just add an additional word (or not, and it just has to be decifered by context). It can be a very literal language (the word for train translates as “car fire” and the word for cheers is “bang glass” according to Hunter) but somewhat lacking in nuance and subtlety.
To get to the Cambodian border, we took the local train. There are only 2 a day and only 3rd class seats are available for 48baht. When the train pulled into the station, everyone rushed on board to try to get a forward facing seat on the shady side of the train. A few stations in, there were no seats left at all.
We soon left the city behind. 2 hours or so from Bangkok, there were little station houses with flowers in pots and a train official in a smart green uniform waving a red flag as the train loads and a green one when it’s safe to leave. By the time we were almost to Aranyaprathet the station was no more than a dirt road leading up to the train tracks.
En route we picked up rural children heading home from school in the next town over and passed rice fields in varying states of cultivation. There were brilliant saffron colored monk’s robes billowing on drying lines outside a small temple, and from time to time ash would drift in through the open windows of the train from the burning fields outside. 5 hours after leaving Bangkok, we had arrived at the end of the line for Thailand.