After a delayed departure out of Tokyo Narita (NRT) I landed in Bangkok (BKK) pretty late. By the time I got through customs, argued with a taxi driver whose meter was clearly in tourist mode (showing more than twice what the rate should have been before we even got close to the hotel), and detoured around a protest road block (a couple of beat up black cars and several men in matching black t-shirts with white writing), it was 3am when I got to the hotel.
In the morning, I met mom and dad for breakfast and we decided to get out of town sooner rather than later. Dad and a guy at the hotel talked with a taxi driver about the best way to avoid the roadblocks on the way to the train station and we were off. There was very little traffic on the roads, and even the sidewalks seemed empty to me.
M&D had bought the overnight train tickets to Chiang Mai starting from the next city up, Ayutthaya, so we bought cheap tickets on the local (slow) train to Ayutthaya.
In Ayutthaya, we left our bags at the train station, brushed off the pushy driver/guides, and walked across the way to get lunch. The waitress there suggested that we could take a 4-baht ferry across the river and hire a tuk-tuk for the afternoon for about 1/4 of the price of the pushy people by the train, so that’s what we did.
The tuk-tuk driver didn’t speak much English but we showed him on the map which sites we wanted to see and got a bit of a city tour in the process. The ruins were interesting, and the red bricks looked particularly colorful in the golden light as the sun started to go down in the early evening.
After our tour, we found a little restaurant along the river and had some papaya salad and beer before catching the cheap ferry back across the river to wait for our train.
The train was cozy. Bunks along both sides with a narrow aisle filled with bags to negotiate our way through. Our bunks were at the front end of the car (we had boarded at the back), and near the toilets. In the morning, when it got light out, we could see that the toilets had no plumbing at all and were really just holes in the train floor, straight through to the tracks below. Note to self: do not walk along railroad tracks in Thailand.
The bunks were fairly comfortable, but sleeping on the train was a challenge as it was not a particularly smooth ride and was occasionally quite noisy and jarring. I woke up every 1-2 hours. At least being on the bottom bunk I had a window to peek out of.
Shortly before arriving in Chiang Mai, a train employee came through the cabin saying “get up!” and converted all the bunks into seats, stowing the top bunks back into the ceiling.
At the end of the line, we collected our bags and D haggled with some songthaew drivers to get us a cheap ride to our hotel.