Sunday, January 22, 2012

Think Positive Thoughts

“Think positive thoughts.” These are the encouraging words of advice from our travel agent when we leave Hua Hin (is encouraging the right word?) as we venture to the train station for our overnight trip to south Thailand.
We aren’t alone – our friends and their three kids accompany us. The kids are already on edge as it’s past their bedtime (heck, it’s past mine!). We thought we’d put ourselves at a disadvantage from the start to make it more interesting.
After a half hour drive, we arrive at the train station and find some friends of ours who should have left an hour before us. Think positive thoughts. Turns out they booked their tickets for the right day but the wrong month. They end up on a hard seat train that arrives soon after we do. We debate which is worse – a ticket snafu that means you have to pay through the nose to take a different flight to Thailand or one that forces you to sit upright for 12 hours through the night? It’s a toss up.
Train hopper
We’re immediately told that our train is delayed 20 minutes. That doesn’t sound so bad, until 20 minutes after the original departure time and there’s still no train. A worker tells us it will be another 20 minutes. When another 20 minutes passes, a bell rings and we gleefully assume this means the train will arrive soon so we move down the track to where we predict our car will be. After another 10 minutes sans train, the same worker comes down to talk to us. I decide that if he tells us it will be another 20 minutes, I am going to push him onto the tracks. (wait, no, think positive thoughts). We can’t really make heads or tails of what he says – something about not the other track – except that he predicts another 10 minutes. Congratulations my friend, you get to live.
The “other track” comment is regarding the slow moving train that arrives on the other track within minutes. It’s a hard seat train. We’re happy to wait for ours, which arrives about an hour after originally scheduled.
A house near a train station
Finally on board, we climb into our beds that are flush against the windows. I can’t say I sleep well, because as I’ve mentioned before I am genetically predisposed to not sleeping well anywhere other than prone in a dark, quiet, comfortable room. The lights, noise, and rocking of the train jolt me many times but I’m happy to say I feel rested in the morning.
I know it’s morning because the people in the next berth loudly disassemble their beds and open their windows. I had no idea that was possible so I’m glad to see it. For the next 5 hours we watch the Thai countryside pass by and stop in various small towns to let people off. At one stop I take a picture of a woman crossing the tracks and then realize she just hopped the train.
When we arrive in Trang, our driver is a little anxious. He’s supposed to pick someone up at our hotel at 3:30. It’s 12 already and it’s a 3 hour drive without stops. He and his companion inform us we can eat at the 7/11. We inform them that we would really rather stop and eat substantially. The two of them chatter in Thai. It sounds nice, but we imagine they are a little annoyed with us. Think positive thoughts.
By the time we find a place to stop, Ethan is green in the gills from our driver trying to make up lost time in the winding hills of south Thailand. The driver keeps trying to offer him food, seeing that he’s not eating. The extent of my Thai is, “hello”, “thank you” and “money” so I can’t find the vocabulary to say, “Your crazy driving has made all food unpalatable to my poor son” which is maybe just as well. I point to my stomach and say “no good.”
Back in the car the driver manages to make more of us sick and not just a little frightened. We debate which is worse – him trying to cross double yellow lines around a curve to pass people, or driving close enough to the people in front of us that we could actually jump into their cars? Think positive thoughts that don’t involve dying on the back roads of Thailand.
Erik buying our lunch
After two short ferry rides which we traverse sitting in the van, and one final terrifying drive through the jungle we arrive at our destination, Koh Lanta, alive and ready to enjoy the tropics. See, that wasn’t so bad! It must have been all those positive thoughts.

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