When you board any overnight train in Vietnam, you’re greeted with the most peculiar of announcements. After the usual welcome message, there’s particular attention paid to the items strictly forbidden onboard. They include:
- No diseased or contagious persons
- No mad persons
- No dead bodies
- No body parts
Presumably, there’s been a problem with these in the past. How else to explain the extended explanation in both Vietnamese and English? But I’m wondering how they check for these things? Especially the mad persons. Shifty eyes? Uncontrollable twitching? Still believes WrestleMania is real? Who knows.
But it does bring new meaning to Ozzy’s prophetic words:
“I’m going off the rails on a crazy train.”
The thing is, train travel in this part of the world is interesting as hell.
In Thailand, there are no such pronouncements. But what lacks in the public address is more than compensated for by the passengers.
Thailand is full of characters.
Unfortunately, many of them are neither Thai nor with much character. I’m talking about the bitter loner expat. Ride the rails long enough and you’re certain to encounter one or more.
Like this one chap I encountered on the way from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. During our 12 or so hours together he:
- pined for the girl he met four days before who had just kicked him out (“She still has my pork chops”)
- cursed his sister in Arizona (“She’s worth millions, but she still gets pink eye”)
- plotted to kill Obama and “that little Mexican fella”
- passed out in the bathroom and had to be dragged back to his bunk
This stuff is just gold.
You don’t tend to get that so much on European trains.
My first exposure to train travel was in Europe. I had the good misfortune of being 26 when I got my first Eurail pass, and because of my age at the time, the only unlimited pass I could purchase was first class.
Woe was me.
Not only because it made serious inroads into my budget, but I didn’t get to meet very many interesting characters. Just a lot of suits on their way to meet a lot of other suits.
Not very amusing at all.
Second and third class is where the fun is. Of that you can be certain. If you’re still bent on first class, well, you’ve still got the view.
You can console yourself with that I suppose.