That’s Entertrainment: The Reign of Travel by Train

Posted by - December 19, 2011 | Category: Library

Abandoned Trains, Bangkok, Thailand

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.

Hualamphong main train station Bangkok, Thailand

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. 

Warning about sleeping on train, Hualamphong train station, Bangkok Thailand

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.

Photo from train, somewhere in Vietnam

You can console yourself with that I suppose.

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26 comments - add one
  1. Wrestlemania isn’t real? 😮 😉

    Hehe.. but yes, train travel is interesting.. I’ve travelled extensively through trains in India, and it have always stepped off with one interesting tale or another to tell 🙂

  2. Haven’t had too very much experience w/ train travel here in Vietnam yet, though I did of course do the o/n train to and from Sapa that was mildly interesting.

    Nonetheless, I do adore train travel, and yes, especially 2nd and 3rd class is by far the best.

    (btw, I heard no such “No dead body, nor body parts…” pronouncements on the Sapa runs. Darn. You lucky.)

  3. Come on, what do you mean you can’t carry body parts? And if one needs to bring a leg?! Great stories from traveling by train, I’m planning more train for 2012, to catch up on all you miss by plane..

  4. We’re still saying “no thanks” to the train thingy. Being on a subway was close enough.
    Although the Rocky Mountaineer is something else! 🙂 … Not quite the same thing is it.

  5. I love to take the train and generally think it is a fun way to travel. If I have a choice between driving myself or taking the train, I prefer the train because I don’t like traveling long distances by car and on the train you can relax, use your laptop, walk around, eat, drink, etc. It is nice to leave the driving to someone else (in my opinion)!
    I have found the train fare can be as much and sometimes more than traveling by air so choosing a mode of travel sometimes comes down to: How much you want to spend and How important the total Travel Time is to your overall travel plans and Your personal preferences for comfort, etc


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