Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Two People, Two Bicycles, Two Trains

Day 152
Bangkok to Phitsanulok (by train)
Time: 4:30:00 + 25:00 across Bangkok by bike
Distance: Halfway to Chiang Mai
Avg Speed: Train Speed
Terrain: Flat with rice
Location: 100˚ 15’ 44”, 16˚ 48’ 25”

Where do I start?

With our rest period complete, we got back in the swing of things by riding to the Bangkok train station this morning. Even with the combination of being in a completely foreign country and in a city of 7.5 million, we were pretty excited to get back on the road. For the first time in a week, we read the map correctly and found our way to the train station in about 25 minutes. The ride wasn’t horrifying at all – bicycles are part of the transit system here and we just fit right in. I did my best to look around and soak it in. It was hard to believe I was riding in Bangkok. The air was so thick that you could see it and the city was bustling with all sorts of activities.
The train station was very organized and a nice girl helped us find our platform. We pushed our bikes down to a bench and waited. About 45 minutes later the train rolled in and we queued up like everyone else. There were many farang (slang for foreigners) but we still looked out of place with our bicycles. I started to chat with a fellow who noticed my panniers. He had cycled something like 20,000+ kilometers from Korea to Portugal. Wow. Anyhow, he wondered if we’d be able to take our bikes on the train. We both shrugged and said “we think so”. Turns out we thought wrong.
Soon after our chat with Boston (didn’t catch his name, just his city) we got the shake down from the platform guard. We weren’t allowed to take bikes on the express train. He told us what train we could take and we wheeled our circus back into the station. Chris got a workout for the next half hour as he went from window to desk to window to figure out what we would do. The next train turned out to be third class, not such a problem unless you’re up for nine hours with no a/c. So, the solution was for us to get on the express and our bikes to go on the slow train. In a very organized fashion, we checked in our bikes, received our claim ticket and walked away. Let me tell you, it was a strange feeling…
It’s a funny thing to be separated from your bike. I think it could be difficult to understand if you’ve never toured. This little machine has taken me everywhere and hauled my gear as well. I didn’t have time to dwell too much because we were in such a hurry to make everything happen.
The train ride was rather uneventful and we arrived 40 minutes late in Phitsanulok. We saw Boston again and he wondered about our rigs. We told him the story and he just smiled. In our previous meeting with him he told us how he had lived in Phitsanulok for a few years way back when. We inquired if he knew any good guesthouses and the next thing we knew he was speaking to a taxi driver in fluent Thai. In a matter of minutes we were being driven to the international youth hostel to find some budget accommodation. Boston decided to join us and check the place out. He was our translator as we checked out a few different rooms. We have no idea what he was saying but we ended up with something basic for $10. Not bad for a decent sized room with a bathroom. The only drawback is that there is only half of a toilet seat, but who’s complaining?
Here’s to being back on the road,
ps – the slow train was an hour and a half late, but the bikes did make it.

1 comment:

JennSean said...

My heart was racing for you!! I am not sure I would have been so calm knowing that my mode of transportation and my companion was being shipped without me! Glad to hear the rigs made the trip! -JH