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Thursday, December 06, 2012

Day 6 Digest from Bangkok and the the train, Thailand

For the earlier daily travel digests from my South East Asia Backpacking trip, look here.

The morning of Day 6 was fairy easy. The agenda for the day was to book our train tickets to Surat Thani as we had to catch a bus and a boat from there to the island of Koh Samui. We looked up online, but unfortunately for us all berth tickets were sold out and only the AC seats were available. It was not our first preference as we did not want to spend 9 hours of the night sitting cramped in a chair. Hence, we decided to try our luck at the railway station as we were told that the railways never released the entire tickets to the online booking system.

So after a hearty breakfast, we took a metered taxi to Hua Lampong station, which took us about 25 minutes even though the traffic was heavy. As soon as we entered the railway station, we headed straight to the tourist information center. I was really surprised at the great service meted out to us. First of all, the folks at the counter spoke good English and then they explained to us the train schedule and options available and personally escorted us to the booking counter for us to book our tickets. We found out that there were AC berth tickets available to Surat Thani and hence decided to book it. The person at the counter asked us our final destination and we told him that we were headed to Koh Samui. He then told us that the railways has partnered with agencies to arrange the complete ticket to Koh Samui from Bangkok, which includes the train ticket to Surat Thani, the bus ticket to the pier and the boat ticket to Koh Samui. We decided to take the joint ticket and paid around 1100 THB. The thing we found interesting was that the price of the lower AC berth seats were higher than the upper AC berths as the lower berths were slightly wider.

Once our tickets were sorted out, we headed back to the hostel, had a nice relaxed Thai lunch, packed up our stuff and left in the early evening hours to the railway station again, but this time for the actual travel. This time we got a lot of time to explore the railway station, during which we found that the railway station was well lit and was impeccably clean. We had an early dinner at one of the stalls in the adjoining food street after found the food to just ok.

Shortly, we entered the platform and boarded our train. The walk to our compartment was suffocating as the air conditioned compartments were powered by separate diesel engines and these were letting fumes on to the platform. The train in itself was really good. It had been a long while since I had gotten on to a meter gauge train. The seats were large and comfortable. There were 2 parallel lines of seats and in the middle was the luggage areas.  Shortly, the catering department folks came over to hand over the menu card, but we didn’t order as we had just finished our dinner and the prices were too high. They also serve beer on the train.

At about 8 pm, a technician came and in trained style, he converted the seats into bed, set up the bedding, pillow and blankets. Since we were very tired, we retired early, but it took us a while to sleep as we had to get used to the hum, drum and vibration of the train and the slightly cramped berths. But, thankfully, I slept fairly peacefully.



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