(Thursday 10th July)
As the parades and lessons of Thursday finished Bubpha took me down to the train station to see me off to Bangkok, as well as to show me how to use the Thailand train system without getting totally lost. I ended up buying a second class ticket, and after walking over several rail-lines (another common-place Thailand thing that would get you killed in Britain) I found myself on a relatively comfortable train heading to the capital. So far, so good! Well, not lost at least.
Overall my first experience with Thailand’s train system wasn’t as shocking as I first thought it would be, although falling asleep for the first hour I was on the train may have helped that. The structure of second class carriages are the same as they are in England, save for the fact that the windows have no glass and are completely open air. This of course meant that I could lean on the side with my elbow partially out of the train, which I’m sure made me look really cool and meaningful. But as we got closer into Bangkok more signs and buildings emerged that you could practically touch from the ‘comfort’ of your own train seat, leading me to think that anyone who has ever spent a whole Thailand train journey with their arm hanging out of the window probably doesn’t have it anymore. Having said that, I saw a fair few yellow-polka dotted spiders that looked pretty ferocious on the inside of the carriage, so maybe that’s a common issue either way.
At the train station I found a tuktuk driver and haggled down a price from 200 to 180 baht. This is still a complete rip-off as far as tuktuks are concerned, but I didn’t have the energy to argue further and took it as a small bartering victory anyway. After a drive where I was clinging onto my bag for dear life as the driver sped through traffic and swerved corners like he was trying to set a record I was dropped off at Khaosan road, lessening my bartering victory somewhat as I soon realised that this was nowhere near where my hotel was. So began about half an hour of me wandering around some seedy looking Bangkok streets looking very lost before eventually finding a map and figuring out where I was supposed to be headed. Kerry’s taxi driver would later do the exact same thing to her, and when I went to go find her I realised that the route from Khaosan Road to our hotel was actually just a straight line, making my half an hour of wandering even more redundant. But hey, you live and learn.
Since we’d booked it only a couple of days prior to travelling I was expecting the hotel to be a complete dive, so was surprised to find out that it was actually a really nice place. I think ‘quaint’ was probably the best way to describe it, as there were hand drawn paintings within each of the rooms and a cute little outside porch containing a bookshelf stacked with novels and travel guides. We didn’t spend much time there however, as Kerry and I wandered to one of the strips to find somewhere to eat, with Jess joining us an hour later when her plane from the South had finally touched down. We ended up staying out until around 2am, having a few drinks and talking about our school experiences. To be honest, I’ve been dreading having conversations like these, as I expected that the others would have amazing stories to tell that would make anything I’d done pale in comparison, but in reality it was just nice hearing about how we were all getting on. Like the British Council have practically drilled into us by this point, we found that all of our experiences had differed immensely, and I picked up some more game ideas to play in school from it. Both Jess and Kerry were shocked that I hadn’t taught my kids how to give High 5s yet, so I guess that should really be my priority from now on (you know, after the actual English teaching bit.)
I slept pretty well that night, despite having to have the fan whirring all night like a madman as a substitute for the lack of air-con. Although that’s really the same setup that I have back in the schoolhouse in Phachi, so if anything it felt like I hadn’t even left.