|Mimicking refugees, at Hua Lamphong station|
|Leaving our bikes with the porter|
|Extra large garbage bags from Tesco double up as a bike bag|
|Boarding our train|
|Without our bulky bikes, it can be quite spacious|
|Cramped conditions as our luggage could not go under the seats!|
|Toilet with wash basin|
|Toilet equipped with bidet|
|Hot shower or Hot man???|
|Non slip flooring|
|Personalised touch screen TV|
Mekong Ride 2 was a repeat for some; BUT most of us were fresh to this route. As veteran LTF members, we learnt to trust Alvin and did no research on our sides. However, as George puts it, Murphy's law will apply....all that can go wrong, will go wrong!!! Such that as the trip progresses, while some of us had it easier, others did not! But through all the adversities, no one was left behind, as in the spirit of OHANA!
On the morning of the trip, all of us, short of Carolen met at Changi airport at 10 am. While the Roscoes were the firsts to arrive, having taken the midnight flight from Perth; VT, Sue and Claudine started their day earlier than the Singaporeans, having to cross borders! It was a good homecoming of sorts as we all met for LTF's annual August tour!!!
Changi Airport's staff canteen has become the unquestionable rendezvous for LTF members. It was good to know that while we have travelled far and wide, our roots still remain humbly Asian.
We arrived at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport slightly later than scheduled. With air travel becoming more and more affordable, thanks to sprouting budget airlines, the high volume of air traffic was undeniable. Our Scoot flight was 6th in queue for take off, hence the delay!
As usual, Suvarnabhumi (fondly referred to as Swarmbunny by our LTF Chief), was swarmed with travellers. Clearing immigration, Celia tried taking us on the APEC lane but without Frankie as on the previous 321 trip, our big crowd of 10 caught the officer on duty's attention. We were not permitted to abuse the lane except for family members!
Returning to the regular lane, it took the rest of us quite some time to get our passports stamped. By the time we got to the odd sized luggage bay, Celia was already loading her boxes up her trolley. Security was tight that day and we were only allowed to retrieve our own boxes based on our baggage tags.
|Lunch on the go...arrival hall|
|Lunch on the go...arrival pick up point|
|Lunch on the go...in the van!!!|
Leaving customs, Alvin instructed the ladies to pack lunch from the airport diners. We had to leave almost immediately as our pick up service was already "waiting" though it was a good 20 minutes before they finally appeared. Meanwhile, VT and Claudine had to unpack their bikes as their full sized bike boxes may not fit into the 2 rented vans.
Hua Lamphong train station was an hour's drive away. When we arrived, Carolen was already waiting for us, as arranged. She had travelled to Bangkok a day earlier, met a friend, attended a cooking class and even walked through the "slums", as she puts it!!!
The main train station itself was set in the midst WW1 architecture, complete with a half dome facade that lets in a lot of light. Inside, a twin set of sweeping staircase leads to the upper floor where the administrative offices are located. It was fun to marvel at the old brass door knobs and furniture from yesteryears.
Downstairs, in the main hall, a peculiar Thai culture stood out. A large, spotlessly clean, floor area was cordoned off for tired travelers who preferred a place to stretch out. Everyone dutifully removed their footwear and kept the place clean!!!
Needless to say, we removed our shoes, eager to dive into the Thai way of life! While some of us lingered longer than others, Celia put her patient on a stretching session, right on the floor! VT was sent out to recce a good dinner place and George accompanied by Wendy scoured the streets for Thai SIM cards.
That evening, VT led us through the side and back streets of Hua Lamphong to arrive at Laappaak dining room. It was his way of getting us orientated to Thai cultures when in actual fact, the restaurant is visible from the main doors of the station! Dinner was exquisite but the portions were small. This led some of us to visit the nearby 7 Eleven as soon as dinner was done while some others proceeded to the station's canteen.
Boarding our night train which left promptly at 8 pm, we almost had a heart attack. George's bike was missing!!! Scurrying after the porter, he found none at the pick up bay! Returning with the porter later, we discovered with relief that his bike was tucked underneath Claudine and VT's seats all the time!
It was not easy to settle down. Everyone were excited going up and down the narrow aisle checking out the train's amenities. Wendy was the first to take a shower in the first class compartment. Uncle KC found out he was not bunking alone but had to share room with a huge Caucasian man that kept to himself most of the time. Our room with our bikes inside was cramped, with little space for movement! While we were all trying to manage the space available, our butler was going from room to room, setting up our beddings for the night.
As the train progresses further up north, one by one, we soon managed to settle down. George and Wendy, upon saying goodnight to VT and Claudine, closed the partition DOOR that separated their rooms. VT opened the shower DOOR to a "still dressed" Carolen!!! She did not lock the shower door properly and from the room's touch screen TV, an unlocked door shows availability!
Ours was the last coach on the train. The back door gave a good view of the tracks we were rolling past! As we moved further away from the city, everything fell into darkness. The last thing Claudine remembered doing was hitting her head on the mirror cabinet as she tried to aim her spit into the tiny sink.... No she did not faint but the rest of the journey was surreal as the rocking motion puts everyone to sleep!
Photo Credits :
1. KC Au Yeong
2. Ped Al
Photo Credits :
1. KC Au Yeong
2. Ped Al